Biden Administration Grant Leads to Skilled Trades Careers for Women

MICHIGAN — Four years ago the nation was at the beginning of a pandemic that would collapse the U.S. economy, lead to many job losses and lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Store shelves emptied and basics like toilet paper and other essentials were nearly impossible to find. Four years later, some women in Michigan are answering the age old question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” with a resounding YES!

The reason for this emphatic answer is they have began careers in the skilled trades thanks to a grant from the Biden administration. According to an article in The ‘Gander, in 2021, Women in Skilled Trades was among several workforce development initiatives in Michigan selected to share in more than $10 million in federal grant funding from President Joe Biden’s administration. The cash, which was distributed through the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, included $6.2 million to expand apprenticeship programs statewide.

Women in Skilled Trades operates under the Workforce Development Institute, which is a nonprofit arm of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)—the largest federation of labor unions in the US. It’s essentially a feeder system for union jobs, and it’s funded largely through grants authorized under the federal government.

One of the recipients of the training provided is union carpenter Krystyn Volk. Volk enrolled in the WIST program in pursuit of bigger paychecks and better benefits—and for anything else besides sitting behind a desk at an insurance sales company.

She said her training led to a full-time job in the construction business about a month before she even finished the pre-apprenticeship program. She now earns an hourly wage of $40 through the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Local No. 1045 in Warren.

The highly competitive pay (and benefits) was enough for her to afford the down payment on her first home last year—and she just bought a new set of wheels in March, she told The ‘Gander.

“I can’t lie. It’s really nice to get those paychecks, and to afford to go on a vacation or anything else,” Volk said. “But it’s also good to be a part of something lasting and to see my work when it’s finished, and being proud of my work and working with people who are proud of their work.”

Biden Bills Lead to Future Work

For graduates of the Women in Skilled Trades program and all construction workers, a trio of bills signed by President Joe Biden means decades of work ahead for members of the skilled trades. The three laws pave a promising path forward for American workers and represent a dramatic break from the failed trickle-down economic policies of the past. Trickle-down economics recklessly assumed that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy would create good jobs but ultimately led to the decline of the American middle class and shrinking opportunities for working families. The economic transformation promised in these bills seeks to reverse that decline.

According to The ‘Gander, the State of Michigan reports that recent (and ongoing) infrastructure spending on construction projects authorized under Biden’s infrastructure law could lead to thousands of new jobs in the construction industry, as well as in materials manufacturing, engineering, and technical services.

New data from the BlueGreen Alliance also shows that recent federal investments in workforce development (including through the Inflation Reduction Act) could create more than 167,000 new jobs in Michigan over the next 10 years—primarily in the state’s clean energy industry.

For workers like Krystyn Volk, the future is bright.

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