Women in Apprenticeships

by Devean R. Owens / Apr 10, 2017

Unfortunately there are people who do not believe women have what it takes to persist through an apprenticeship program. In 1992, the U.S. Department of Labor authorized the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Act. The goal of the WANTO Act is to “recruit, train and retain women in high-skill occupations in advanced manufacturing, transportation, energy, construction, information technology and other industries” (Villao, 2017). Thankfully there are organizations working to increase the number of women in apprenticeships across the nation.

On March 23rd, WorkforceGPS hosted a webinar entitled “Recruiting Women for Nontraditional Apprenticeship and Employment.” The webinar featured speakers from Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) in New York, Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women (ANEW) in Seattle, and Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT).

Erik Antokal of NEW opened the discussion by providing background information about his organization, as well as how they recruit and retain tradeswomen. Direct support, networking events, assisting programs throughout the Northeast Region, and their Signature Projects Program are all tactics they employ. Their program gives participants the opportunity to hone skills such as trades math, health and safety, lifting and carrying, job readiness, and learning through hands-on shop classes in carpentry, electrical work, and painting.

ANEW’s Morgan Stonefield discussed effective practices and practical approaches for recruitment of women into trades. Stonefield navigated through employer approaches, recruitment, partnerships, and barriers. She encourages employers not only to make the commitment to recruit women but also to make the recruitment public, by doing things like clearly stating that women are encouraged to apply and using photos of real women in their current workforce. Employers should seek out organizations where they might find potential female recruits.

Stonefield asserts that pre-apprenticeship training programs are great sites from which to recruit. Known or unknown biases may come through during the interview process; therefore, companies should make sure each candidate is asked the exact same questions. She also suggested creating different pieces for the application process and using an overall score or average to make hiring decisions. Some barriers women encounter with apprenticeships are lack of tools and clothes, a lack of access to quality pre-construction training, hiring managers who do not believe women can do the job, and often  being overlooked in the screening process.

CWIT’s purpose is economic equity for women through access to high-wage, high-skilled jobs. CWIT facilitates the Technical Opportunities Program, which is a twelve-week program that meets twice a week and on Saturdays. Linda Hannah gave a detailed overview of their program and how they recruit young women. They host information tables and attend career fairs at local high schools to spark interest early. CWIT participants have the opportunity to attend hands-on field trips at the apprenticeship school. According to Hannah, employers should create targeted outreach materials, use gender-neutral language, and include women in pictures and especially in the process.

Whether you’re looking to expand your workforce to include women or looking for an apprenticeship program yourself, there are several programs and organizations dedicated to increasing the number of women in apprenticeships.


  • Villao, D. (2017). Recruiting Women for Nontraditional Apprenticeship & Employment [Powerpoint slides].