Oregon Business – KEEN awards $10,000 to Oregon tradeswomen for childcare and other services

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Portland-based shoemaker KEEN Utility has invested $10,000 in Oregon Tradeswomen, a nonprofit organization that provides training and advocacy for women in the building trades, as part of an ongoing partnership.

Oregon Tradeswomen Inc, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring access, opportunity and equity for women in the skilled construction trades, was named the recipient of KEEN Utility’s 2022 She Builds grant program in May, according to a statement. Press.

The grant is part of KEEN’s She Builds grant program, through which the shoemaker has pledged $1 million in product and financial support over five years to nonprofit organizations in the United States and Canada. She Builds is in turn part of a philanthropic effort called The KEEN Effect, whose mission is to make the outdoors and crafts accessible to everyone.

Credit: Oregon TradeswomenInc.

The nonprofit will use the money awarded to provide comprehensive services, such as transportation and childcare, to its members. The $10,000 investment can be reapplied by applicants who have already received funding, meaning tradeswomen in Oregon could receive the funds again next year.

Kelly Kupcak, executive director of Oregon Tradeswomen, said that over the next five years, the organization will focus on “sharing stories of women who have succeeded through this partnership,” to engage more people. women to pursue commercial work.

“We try to ensure that there are opportunities for women and people of color who have continued to be historically marginalized and underrepresented in good jobs in the skilled trades,” says Kelly Kupcak, executive director of Oregon Tradeswomen. These are jobs that can give you a lifelong career with salaries, benefits, health insurance, all the things that are important to people.

Kupcak also says it feels like “an incredibly historic moment” in the United States, with the level of federal investment in infrastructure, increased discussion of the care economy, and ongoing conversations about equity.

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Credit: Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.

The United States also faces a growing shortage of workers in skilled trades such as welding, electrical, plumbing, healthcare, and mechanics in the United States.

Kupcak says that although only about 4% of workers in the trades profession are women, there is “incredible momentum” to attract more women into the trades. She says the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to rethink their careers, and with enough childcare and other wraparound services, nonprofits like hers could help foster a more inclusive generation of commerce workers.

Robin Skillings, vice president and general manager of KEEN Utility, told Oregon Business that she was concerned about the high rate of retirements among trades workers and estimated there would be a shortage of about 3 million workers in the trades by 2028.

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Credit: Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.

The grant continues a history of collaboration between KEEN and Oregon Tradeswomen: Since 2016, KEEN has offered a free pair of work boots to any Oregon Tradeswomen member upon graduation from trade school.

Skillings says she was drawn to Oregon’s tradeswomen after attending one of her career fairs where girls could climb telephone poles and build birdhouses to introduce them to business skills. Since she started working at KEEN in 2016, Skillings says the nonprofit has been a great resource for testing and developing its own products, including flame-resistant footwear for welders.

“The Oregon tradeswomen came in and had open and honest conversations with my marketing team and our product team,” Skillings says. “Just listening and getting their ideas on products and our marketing messages has truly become an amazing partnership.”



Part of this work is to support organizations trying to reach a younger generation of women and replace any message they may receive with a more positive image of working in the trade – breaking down stereotypes that working in the profession is not an intellectual challenge. Skillings says companies have a responsibility and a vested interest in changing the way girls view business professions and envision their career paths.

“Moving forward as a brand, the biggest initiative for us is to leverage our platform and leverage our brand as much as possible to strengthen trades advocacy. It was really about shining our light and saying, ‘Women do exist in the trades’ and shining a light on this labor shortage issue,” says Skillings. “Without having more trades people, men and women alike, you have the potential of not having someone able to come the day your floors are flooded. You’re going to see a lot more people having to figure out how to fix things on YouTube,” Skillings says.

Although she praised President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package, she says that without workforce development it will not be money well spent.

“While it’s super generous and gracious of our country to present a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, if we don’t have enough men and women in the trades, the work won’t be done at the rate we need it to, and we’re still going to have communities that can’t get clean water, so we’re at a tipping point. It’s all on deck,” Skillings says.


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