Working for 12 years as a Pipefitter in Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota, I saw few to no people of color or women working in the construction trades unless a large contract required “minorities” to get the contract. One father of a Dunwoody trade school classmate asked if I thought it was fair that I got into the union apprenticeship a year before his son did. And one morning on a job a co-worker commented that an apprentice, “just jacked off in your jelly roll,” when the two returned from a parts run bringing us donuts.
People ask how I got into pipefitting. In 1987, I took a class to learn about higher paying jobs and took the GATB, the aptitude test for vocational career advising. I filled out the exam as a male and scored high in areas suitable for working in heating and air conditioning. I graduated from Dunwoody Technical College in 1990, the second woman in 85 years to graduate from their HVAC program. Not all were rude but the overall climate was abhorrent with pin up calendars and radio shows reinforcing the hierarchy. White men find work for their own and if measured a very large percentage have relatives in the trades. Nepotism reins unchecked.
I then moved on to work in health care. As a Nursing Assistant for five years in Minneapolis at Fairview University Hospital I could count less than five African American Registered Nurses working in the hospital. These jobs in construction and health care are some of the best paying in the state.
“High-skills, high-wage, technical training programs continue to be dominated by men as less than 3% of all construction training programs include women at two year technical programs.” “While fewer than 5% of the total Minnesota workforce did not have a job 15% of black workers were unemployed in 2013 which is a gap nearly twice as large as the national gap. And while only 6.9% of white residents did not have health insurance in 2013, nearly 33% of blacks were uninsured.”