Women in the Trades

Currently there is still much work to be done to achieve fair representation of women in the trades with women only representing 3% of the workforce and 7% of apprentices. Nicole Ferrer, executive director of Apprenticeship & Nontraditional Employment for Women, a not-for-profit agency in Renton that prepares women for apprenticeships in the trades weighs in “women often think they’re not strong enough or lack the background to work in the trades. We try to get them to see how what they’re doing now transfers into jobs in the construction industry. A woman who’s working as a waitress is carrying 50 pound trays all day.” We also know that it is not women who are the major barrier to equal opportunity in the trades but the systems that govern the trade industry and the societal ideas we all hold about women. As a City we are committed to creating meaningful shift by addressing larger systems and ideas that develop the prevailing yet false notion that women aren’t mean for the trades.

Apprenticeships in the Trades at the City of Seattle

At the City of Seattle City Light and Public Utilities have available apprenticeship programs to support working in the trades. It’s an opportunity to earn while you learn! When accepted into a trade apprenticeship you are provided with paid full time work with benefits, evening classes that are paid for and a full time job after the apprenticeship is successfully completed. Positions do not open up often and advancing to the interview process requires passing a written, working and oral exam. Check out the various apprenticeships that are available as well as resources to help prepare for an apprenticeship below. Both departments welcome and encourage women to apply. For personal stories look explore this photo article by the Seattle Times documenting women in the trades, including employees at the City: http://projects.seattletimes.com/2015/women-in-trades/

Available Apprenticeships

Seattle Public Utilities Seattle City Light
  • Water Pipe Worker
  • Drainage and Wastewater Apprenticeship
  • Hydro-electric Maintenance Machinist
  • Cable Splicer
  • Electrician Constructor
  • Meter Electrician
  • Utility Construction Worker
Seattle Public Utilities Program Seattle City Light Program

Fire and Police

The Seattle Fire (SFD) and Police Department (SPD) have been taking initiative to bring more women into the workforce after recent studies that show they had the lowest percentage of female employees at the City, 8.13% at SFD. The recruitment efforts range from targeted recruitment at various job fairs, building new partnerships with women’s organizations and adjustments to screening tests to ensure they are fair and equitable. There is no doubt that becoming a member of the Police and Fire unit is intensive. For support look through the information below for each department with links to the application process and tips to help prepare for recruitment.


Overview of the hiring process at Seattle Fire Department

Physical: Engage in advanced strength and endurance training. You will need endurance beyond what the baseline CPAT can measure in order to perform required drills and lists of skills multiple times without rest.

Manipulative: Familiarize yourself with the equipment you will be using. For instance, you should know how to start a Stihl chainsaw. You would benefit from having experience with power tools. Below are some sample Recruit School skill sheets that list equipment you will be expected to be comfortable with.

Home Life: Make sure you family is prepared for your time during recruit school. You have very little time or energy for anything except recruit school during the 15-week program.

General Experience: You can gain some familiarization with the tools and equipment of the fire service as well as some hands-on experience through a volunteer department.

It is also helpful to get connected with a women currently serving as a firefighter by emailing sfd.recruitment@seattle.gov.