by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
The annual Women in Trades Fair celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with what promises to be a better-then-ever exhibition on Friday, May 10, at Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion.
The purpose is to open up good employment opportunities - ones that will lead to career employment, better-than-average wages and benefits, and retirement programs - to women.
Exhibitors include union apprenticeship programs, governmental agencies, colleges, vocational programs, and private companies.
This year participants include King County, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Schuchart Corporation, and Vigor Industrial. Training programs include apprenticeships with laborers, sheet metal workers, carpenters, Seattle meat cutters, operating engineers, pipefitters, and electricians.
Outdoor exhibits will include Seattle City Light's climbing pole, King County Facilities' build project, and Seattle DOT's shovel test.
Middle and high school students from all over the Puget Sound region attend and are introduced to the high-paying, empowering positions in the skilled trades.
Women in Trades also aims to help work-ready women seeking employment.
'Sometimes, a match is made on the spot,' Women in Trades Manager Cynthis Payne notes. 'The exhibitor walks away with a new enthusiastic hire and the hiree walks away with a living-wage job.'
The first Women in Trades Fair was held on Saturday, November 10, 1979, at the Seattle Labor Temple on First Avenue in downtown Seattle. It featured workshops with topics such as How to Enter the Trades, Overcoming Math Anxiety, Affirmative Action - Racism & Sexism on the Job, and How to Survive in the Trades. There were booths and demonstrations that showcased carpentry, electrical, firefighting, appliance repair, forklift driving, and more.
The original fair was produced by Mechanica and the University YWCA with support from the King County Women's Program, Operating Engineers Local 302, the Seattle Office of Women's Rights, the federal Department of Labor Women's Bureau, and the National Electrical Contractors Association. It was an ambitious undertaking for its time, and aimed at resetting the traditional division of labor between 'men's' and 'women's' work.
'It's 2019 and 39 Trade Fairs have come and gone. Every current tradeswoman, at some time in her career, experiences the same struggles as did those women in 1979,' Women in Trades says in its press release.
'The percentage of women working in skilled trades remains dismal, and sometimes the glass ceiling seems to get thicker and thicker. But the modern tradeswoman pushes on like a dandelion growing through a sidewalk crack. One might wonder why we don't just throw up our hands and give up? The answer is simple: 'We're Here to Work.'
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