Exploring the Trades through Virtual Job Shadows
By Alison Spasyk, AmeriCorps VISTA member
Throughout the winter and early spring, Vermont Works for Women organized a series of virtual job shadow events to highlight careers in the trades and other non-traditional fields for women. Each event featured a local company or employer, and a live tour or pre-recorded demonstration to showcase a typical day in that career. We were also able to hear from some of the women employees at each company about their unique experience as a woman in their trade.
Our first event featured the Burlington Electric Department on January 12th. We learned about what it’s like to work at the McNeil Generating Station in Burlington, which is a biomass plant that uses wood fuel for electricity generation. We heard from two women employees – Sue Boomhover, a former operator at the McNeil Plant, and Betsy Lesnikoski, Chief Forester – about their roles within BED and what they enjoy most about their jobs.
On January 26th, we hosted TimberHomes Vermont, a member-managed design and build company, that specializes in timber frames for barns, pavilions, cabins, and homes around Vermont and New England. Two of their employees, Helen Doyle and Molly Brandt, showed us a live demonstration of the timberframing process. They also answered questions about how they got their start with the company and what being a women in the building trades means to them.
When asked about how one can get started in a career in the building trades, Molly Brandt replied, “To me the most important thing to entering construction is just to be willing to put in the legwork and the homework… I think just having that attitude towards being excited about learning is really the most important thing”.
Birdseye, an award-winning architectural design and building company, joined us for a job shadow on March 11th. After an introduction to all the services the company provides, we were guided on a virtual tour of a current job site in Burlington, where they were working on an addition to a house they originally designed. Our tour guides were Mary Simmons, marketing and communications director, and John Yates, project manager for the jobsite.
As a part of VWW’s annual Women Can Do conference, we hosted a job shadow with BETA Technologies on April 7th. BETA specializes in the design and development of electric aircraft and clean aviation technology. We were joined by five women employees at BETA, who each have different roles within the company. After sharing a pre-recorded video showcasing each of the women at work, we sat down for a live discussion about they got started in their careers and what advice they have for women interested in pursuing non-traditional fields.
So I have a 10 year old daughter. I have tried to raise her to not see any career she would choose do as being non-traditional. I tell her, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ She doesn’t see me as being an engineer, and as a pilot, as being something not normal. She just sees it as ‘Hey, ya I can do that too.’– Lan Vu, Electrical Engineer, BETA Technologies
Finally, on April 9th, VWW collaborated with the Vermont Talent Pipeline, to organize an event as a part of their “Exploring Careers in Construction” series. The event featured BreadLoaf Construction, and we heard from a handful of their employees about their roles within the company and what to expect from a career in construction.
Thank you to all of our partnering companies and employers who made these events possible.
View the recordings of our virtual job shadows below!
Tuesday, Jan. 12: Burlington Electric Department
Tuesday, Jan. 26: TimberHomes Vermont
Thurs, March 11: Birdseye
Wednesday, April 7: BETA Technologies