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

Governor Janet Mills today 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 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.

Governor Mills holding a copy of the Executive order

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

“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,” said Governor Janet Mills. “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 life-long, meaningful careers in construction.”

“I look forward to working with colleagues across the public and private sector to promote opportunities in construction for women and other underrepresented communities,” said Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman. “I am especially excited about connecting more women with “earn and learn” models such as registered apprenticeship. Registered apprentices earn wages while gaining skills and national certifications.”

"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.”

“We applaud this Executive Order to bring more women into the construction trades and to strengthen Maine’s economy. Maine Unions are focused on training more women in the trades through registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and women who have come through these programs have added tremendous talent and capacity to our construction workforce. This Executive Order will help us to expand existing programs and support innovative efforts to recruit and train more women around the state,”said Sam Boss, Maine AFL-CIO Apprenticeship, Workforce & Equity Director.

“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 today 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 President 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.

“There is a place in Maine’s economy for everyone and the continued growth in construction is creating great opportunities,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “This executive order will support our ongoing efforts to connect businesses and workers, which is a priority for our department and a key component of Maine’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy.”

“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.”

“Being a Union electrician has been such a great experience. I’d encourage anyone– especially fellow women–to take the chance and learn a trade, even if it’s nerve wracking at first,” said Jill Rackliff, an apprentice with IBEW 1253. “We have always been told construction is a man’s job, but it’s simply not true. I hope this Executive Order will help to encourage more women to pursue opportunities in the construction industry.”

Under Governor 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.

Governor Mills standing with construction workers

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, Governor 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.

Read the Governor’s Executive Order here.