The US Department of Labor (DOL) awarded its largest Women in Apprenticeship & Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grants this year to seven pre-apprenticeship organizations created to increase the number of women in male-dominated industries. One of those organizations is Chapel Hill, NC-based Hope Renovations, which offers women pre-apprenticeship training for women seeking careers in the residential construction trades.
“Women make up nearly half of the nation’s workforce but remain vastly underrepresented in industries like construction, which needs more skilled workers needed to fill these high-paying jobs,” said Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon in the official release. “The Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations program prepares women for promising careers and provides the technical assistance to employers and unions to recruit and retain more women effectively.”
But Hope Renovation's goal for growing confidence and trade skills for women is just half of the mission. Trainees provide aging-in-place repairs and remodels for aging adults in nearby counties. Of the 180 projects completed from 2019 to 2022, 146 were for adults aged 55 and above, according to the organization's Impact Report. The majority of projects were subsidized or offered on a sliding scale.
Hope Renovations has provided 61 women with pre-apprenticeship trades programs, with 38 going to find employment in the industry. According to the Impact Report, all graduates make more than $15 an hour and find occupations in carpentry, plumbing, electrical, residential construction, and more. In North Carolina, the median hourly wage of a woman is $9.05, and only 1% of skilled trades in the are filled by women in the Triangle, which consists of Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham.
Hope Renovations says its $713,518 grant, dispersed over two years, will assist in expanding its service area, tripling the organization's reach. The overall WANTO grant of $5 million is its largest yet, up 47% from its 2022 grant. The organization plans to expand with two additional sites, and in its abstract, predicts the grant will add 150 women to the skilled workforce and benefit 200 employers.
Hope Renovations Founder and CEO Nora El-Khouri Spencer began the organization in 2019 and offered its first training program in July 2020. She has since shared the organization's mission and importance of increasing women in the trades on CNN Heroes, The Drew Barrymore Show, Pro Remodeler, and more, also being named the National Home Builders Association 2022 Woman of the Year, amongst other recognitions.
The six other organizations receiving the grant are the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, Moore Community House, Vincentian Ohio Action Network, Rhode Island Women in the Trades, SER-Jobs for Progress of the Texas Gulf Coast Inc., and the Ada Developers Academy.