Colorado Public Works Journal, Fall-Winter 2018

52 • Colorado Public Works Journal TRANSPORTATION & CONSTRUCTION GIRL 2018 Building the Work Force of the Future When I started my career in the public works industry more than 20 years ago, women were hard to find beyond the front desk. I was fortunate to start my career in public works with great mentors, both men and women, who believed in my abilities and understood the value I brought to the organization, beyond my gender. It has been my privilege the last two years to attend the Transporta- tion & Construction Girl Summit, a program designed to encourage young women to consider careers in transportation, construction, engineering and public works. Last year, the Colorado Public Works Journal attended as supporters and observers. This year, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with three outstanding young women who are considering careers in construction or are already working in the engineering and construction fields. What is Transportation & Construction Girl? In its second year, Transportation & Construction Girl Summit and its as- sociated Career Days, is a learning and internship program that intro- duces middle school and high school girls to careers in public works, transportation, construction and engineering. Created by visionary Keller Hayes of the Hoya Foundation, the Transportation & Construction Girl program seeks to fill a gap in the construction industry work force. With only 8% of the construction and public works work force being filled by women, there are ample opportunities for young women to contribute to this thriving industry, in ways beyond the traditional roles. In her opening remarks at this year’s summit, Ms. Hayes commented on the supply and demand problem that the construction, trans- portation, public works and engineering industries are encountering today. The problem is that there is a high demand for qualified and capable people in these industries, but the supply of workers to fill positions is limited. The goal behind the Transportation & Construc- tion Girl program is to balance supply and demand in this industry by encouraging young women to fill the gaps in a growing and changing construction, engineering and transportation work force. Inspiring Future Careers The Transportation & Construction Girl program is a two part experi- ence for young women. For a small group of girls, the program offers a week long internship program that provides hands-on experience in construction, transportation and engineering. The girls visit metro area businesses that have great women mentors who walk the girls through aspects of the construction and transportation industry. Girls visit construction sites, learn about construction management, and even spend a day learning about the behind-the-scenes operations at Denver International Airport. The Career Days program is followed up with the annual Transporta- tion & Construction Girl Summit, a one day program where young women from metro area schools have the opportunity to meet with construction and transportation professionals, learn more about ca- reers in construction, transportation, engineering and public works, and have hands-on opportunities with trades such as heavy equip- ment operations and welding. The Summit is also an opportunity for girls to hear from others who have participated in career days, or young women who currently work in the industry. It’s these young women who provide the inspiration to other girls who may be considering a career path in the construction industry. Leaders of the Future At this year’s Summit, I was able to spend a bit of time with three young women who are on the road to be the future leaders in the construction industry. These three ladies have found their way to this industry on their own path, but all have found inspiration and encouragement through quality mentors in construction, engineering and even at home. Bella Villano has grown up in the construction industry. A senior at Stargate Academy in Thornton she wasn’t sure that she would fit into the construction industry. Her mother Hortensia Villano, is the owner of P&H Asphalt Paving and Maintenance, and has shown Bella how to be a strong woman, through owning and running a construction company. Bella participated in the Transportation & Construction Girl program as way to find her own path. Her interests are in art, drawing and design so it was hard to see how these skills could translate to a career in construction, and helping in the family business. Mentors in the Transportation & Construction Girl Career Days helped her understand that she can contribute to her family business, and still pursue the things she loves. Elena Pocs is the opposite of Bella. Prior to her participation in the Transportation & Construction Girl Career days, she had no expo- sure to the construction and transportation industry. As a senior at Prairie View High School, Elena was looking for inspiration before heading to college. She found inspiration in the mentors that she met during her time in Career Days. Elena will be attending Colorado State University in the fall and will study construction management. Daniela Gonzalez isn’t a Transportation & Construction Girl graduate, but she is exactly what this program is about. A recent graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in Civil Engineering, Daniela found her love of traffic and right-of-way design and engineering after trying out a couple of different disciplines in engineering. Intern- ships and mentors helped Daniela find her place in the engineering industry, and she credits her success to working with and surround- ing herself with individuals that support and encourage her efforts. by Tamara Moon