Women in Trades

For Kilah Engelke, Business Agent of Local 599 Area 558 in Wisconsin, attending the Women Build Nations Conference, held in Seattle from October 12-14, 2018, was a profoundly moving experience.

“This is the fifth time I’ve attended this conference and each time it gains momentum and power, becoming more and more valuable with each year of progress,” she said.

“I was so fortunate not only to have had the chance to meet and get to know some of the women from Local 528 and the surrounding areas, but also some of the OP’s other female Leaders from around the country,” Kilah explained. “The feeling that comes from collaborating with folks who have made a journey like mine when most of my career I have been somewhat isolated, is so empowering and motivating that I have a hard time coming up with words powerful enough to describe it. With no exaggeration, I’ve consistently found myself moved to tears because of how lucky I felt to be where I am.”

This was the largest Women Build Nations Conference yet held. Sponsored by the OPCMIA, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and ANEW (Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Employment for Women), it empowered the 2,000 women attending to strengthen their voice within their unions, expand their career opportunities, and gain support from one another.

Kilah and many other attendees also participated in the post-conference Practitioner’s Institute on recruiting and retaining women in the construction trades, which also proved highly successful.

She left the Conference more invigorated and inspired than ever. “One thing that I know and understand about our two trades is that we do some of the most physical work that there is,” she said. “We also deal with a perishable material and that brings our toughness factor to a level that other trades don’t understand. That makes me and every other member I know and have met so proud that I can’t find any reason not to make it known to the world. It is one of the reasons that our trades are satisfying and worth the adversity.

“I’m ready and excited to take the opportunity to have a HUGE presence as the OPCMIA at the next Women Build Nations Conference in Minneapolis,” Kilah said. “It is my goal to make it known who we are and what we do — and with the support of the International like we’ve never had before, I know we can prove why this a great organization to be a part of as a woman.”