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Maine Governor Signs Executive Order to Increase Women’s Employment in Maine’s Construction Industry

AUGUSTA, ME — Governor Janet Mills recently signed an Executive Order to improve the recruitment, training, and retention of women in Maine’s construction industry.

Women currently make up 15 percent of Maine’s construction industry and only 11 percent of the industry nationally. The Governor, a trailblazer herself as Maine’s first woman Attorney General and first woman Governor, has long advocated for more women to join traditionally male-dominated fields, including construction and the trades.

The Governor’s Executive Order aims to bring more women into the construction industry and the trades. It aims to alleviate Maine’s severe construction workforce shortage, particularly as the state is poised to utilize historic funding from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to strengthen roads, bridges, broadband connectivity, and other vital infrastructure needs.

The Executive Order directs several state agencies to take a series of actions to better measure the shortage of qualified workers in the construction industry, connect women with industry employment opportunities, and pursue state and federal funding to incentivize the hiring of women.

The Governor signed the Executive Order alongside women leaders from Maine’s construction industry during a ceremony at the Maine Department of Transportation’s Maintenance Facility in Augusta.

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“Women are a crucial part of Maine’s workforce, and they should be welcomed and embraced in every sector of our economy, including those traditionally dominated by men, like the construction industry and the trades,” Mills said. “This Executive Order will create pathways for more women to enter and succeed in these important jobs at a time when our state and the industry needs them most. I strongly encourage women and girls across Maine to consider and pursue lifelong, meaningful careers in construction.”

"Bringing women into the workforce and diversifying a team is the most important aspect to both construction executives and to strengthen the workplace," said Mary Matthews, President of the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. “It’s necessary to include women in the industry because it creates a stronger and more advanced talent pool.”

“My story starts with the age-old world of working every retail job until landing in a career that has growth potential. I connected with a local partner of Reed & Reed’s [AGC], that had an opening for an apprenticeship. What I have learned so far is that an apprenticeship, given the right opportunity, is invaluable,” said Maggie Rende, a Registered Apprentice at Reed & Reed. “All you have to do is show up, work hard, and be eager to learn. If I had known about these opportunities in high school, I would have benefitted greatly. I believe that this opportunity opens many doors for my future and a great career in this field.”

The Executive Order issued by the Governor directs:

  • The Department of Labor to survey Maine-based contractors, subcontractors, staffing agencies, and labor unions to determine how many women work for them; what barriers are preventing more women from working for them; and what approach they are already taking to recruit and retain women in the construction sector in Maine.
  • The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Economic and Community Development to connect businesses in the construction industry with women studying the trades in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and higher education institutions as well as unemployed people and job seekers registered with Maine’s Career Centers.
  • The Departments of Transportation and Economic and Community Development, as well as the Governor’s Energy Office, to collect and share data from contractors and subcontractors who receive funding through Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. The data will identify the characteristics, including gender, of the workers that are already part of these construction projects; identify how many more workers we need to complete infrastructure projects; and identify what supports, including training, exist to help workers fill those needs.
  • The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Economic and Community Development, and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future will pursue grant opportunities to incentivize the hiring of women in the construction industry.

“In 2020, AGC Maine adopted the Culture of C.A.R.E. model, which stands for Commit, Attract, Retain, and Engage. The Culture of C.A.R.E. is an initiative shared by the Associated General Contractors of America [AGC] to advance the construction industry as the industry of choice for diverse and talented workers by building inclusive work environments in construction firms nationwide,” said Kelly Flagg, Executive Director of AGC Maine. “We have kept this in the forefront of our workforce development efforts and continue to see more diversity in those selecting construction as a career of choice. Our Maine Construction Academy metrics show a significantly more diverse population than has been historically represented, including showing an increase in women choosing construction.”

“Careers in construction can be exciting and rewarding, but our industry needs more people,” said Joyce Taylor, Chief Engineer at the Maine Department of Transportation. “New attitudes and technologies have helped broaden and diversify our industry’s workforce. Today, a career in construction is a good fit for anyone who wants to challenge herself and feel pride in her accomplishments at the end of each day. If you work hard in our industry, you will be welcomed, respected, and rewarded.”

Under Mills' leadership, Maine has made historic investments to expand career opportunities for women in the trades. Through the Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, Maine has invested more than $12 million to expand Maine’s Registered Apprenticeship Program, $20 million to strengthen Career & Technical Education as part of workforce initiatives that have created apprenticeship, career and education advancement, and job training opportunities for 25,000 Maine people.

The Governor’s Free Community College initiative is also creating opportunities for thousands of Maine students to earn the skills to succeed in Maine’s workforce. After announcing the initiative during her 2022 State of the State Address, Mills and H.E. Callahan Construction CEO Christine Kendall touted the initiative as a way to help solve shortages in Maine’s commercial construction industry.

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