California wants more women in construction. Child care grants will help.
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At a construction training center in the Bay Area, Tamarra Hayward and 10 other women are hammering in a lumberyard. They’re about to graduate from a pre-apprenticeship, which is like a boot camp for carpentry. But before they can finish and move on to a four-year apprenticeship, they have to show mastery of nailing a window frame.
“It’s like butter now. We know how to do it, how to operate the hammer … correctly,” she said.
For six grueling weeks, Hayward has been driving 90 miles from her home in Sacramento to this center. She would spend the day learning how to use tools and machineries safely, and then drive back to work the night shift at an Amazon warehouse. Sometimes, she delivers food for DoorDash to make ends meet.
While she’s away, she relies on family members to look after her three children.
“So I’ve got someone different watching my kids every single day,” she said. “And I’m struggling paycheck to paycheck right now.”
In stump speeches lately, President Joe Biden has been promoting trade apprenticeships as a solution to labor shortages and a key component of his economic agenda. California is trying to build its workforce by recruiting women into the construction industry. The state is awarding $25 million in grants to get more women into construction apprenticeships, which can lead to high-paying careers in the trades. Someone like Hayward could go from earning $19 an hour at Amazon to as much as $54 an hour.
But only 3.5% of people enrolled in these types of apprenticeships are women, according to Katie Hagen, the director of the California Department of Industrial Relations.
She said women in the industry always share the same challenge: “Top of the list is child care.”
That’s because construction workers need flexible child care tailored to their long hours and sometimes early starts.
“And a lot of places aren’t set up for that, and the ones that are are extremely expensive,” said Andrew Meredith, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council.
The state grants will provide $10,000 in child care stipends per apprentice and $5,000 for women participating in pre-apprenticeships in construction.
Hayward said that money will go a long way during the next phase of her training.
“Two years of receiving a child care stipend will allow me to save two years of income that I would have taken away from my household for child care,” she said.
She said she wants to use that money to buy a house for herself and her kids.
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