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UA Veterans unite at Tradeswomen Build Nations

UA VIP | Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference

In a world where diversity and inclusion are gaining increasing recognition, the building trades industry has seen a remarkable shift with more women breaking barriers and entering traditionally male-dominated fields. Every year, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) hosts a conference that brings together tradeswomen and advocates from the construction, manufacturing, and other trade sectors.

In recent years, the conference has made significant strides in promoting gender diversity and
empowering women to thrive in these industries. The 12th annual Tradeswomen Build Nations Confer-
ence (TWBN) was held Dec. 1 – 3, 2023, which marked the largest gathering of tradeswomen inTWBN Group the world at our Nation’s Capital!

The TWBN Conference stands as a testament to the growing influence and importance of women in the trades.

Laura Ceja, UA Special Representative for Training and Outreach, credits the UA’s tremendous support for TWBN.

“The UA unequivocally supports UA tradeswomen members as evidenced each year by sending the highest number of delegates to the Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference," she said. "Tradeswomen are key to building our membership, strength, and solidarity, and the UA promotes the skills they deliver with respect to both their craft and demonstration of leadership.”

This year, the UA topped the number of attendees at 850 UA delegates out of nearly 4,000 total attendees! The TWBN Conference provides a unique platform for women to share their experiences, insights, and success stories in trades.

Through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and interactive workshops, attendees gain valuable knowledge about navigating challenges and seizing opportunities in fields traditionally dominated by men.

UA Local 110, Norfolk, VA, journeyman, U.S. Navy veteran and VIP (Veterans in Piping) program graduate, HVACR Instructor Nastassia Leggett experienced the Conference for the first time this year. 

“I had an amazing time attending the Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference this year," she said. "It was an amazing atmosphere and overwhelming positive energy that I’ll cherish forever.”

Networking is a vital aspect of professional growth, and the TWBN Conference recognizes this. By bringing together women from various trades and connecting them with mentors, industry veterans, and potential collaborators, the Conference creates a supportive community where women can thrive and excel in their careers.

UA Local 295, Daytona Beach, FL, journeyman Rachael Dellefave, who is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Florida Pipe Trades Organizer, was able to network with her veteran UA brothers and sisters while having the opportunity to meet several other VIP graduates for the first time.

“Being able to connect with another VIP graduate and talking to current members of the program was one of the highlights of my time at TWBN," she said. "I am forever grateful for what the VIP program has done for my future and career. I am also further impressed with the suicide prevention program that VIP has built.”

One of the key objectives of the TWBN Conference is to address gender disparities and promote inclusivity in the trades. This involves not only encouraging women to pursue careers in these fields but also fostering an environment that supports their growth and advancement.

Local 43 TWBN Banner ParadeUA Local 669, Columbia, MD, fourth-year apprentice and Army veteran Zoie Ferrer also had the opportunity to experience the conference for the first time.

“It was such a moving and beautiful experience being able to attend TWBN," said Ferrer. "It really helped me to see the light at the end of all of this. I was also able to meet such talented and kind women from all different trades.”

Workshops focusing on skill development, leadership training, and networking opportunities are also a highlight of the TWBN Conference.

UA VIP Program Administrator Nicole Jeup attended a workshop this year highlighting the importance of male allies in the trades.

“This workshop was eye-opening,” she said. “The shared experiences were very impactful and emphasized the critical need for more male allies in the field.

Breaking down gender barriers and fostering an inclusive work environment is imperative to retention. Male ally support goes beyond mere endorsement; it actively contributes to dismantling systemic challenges and creates a more equitable landscape for women in the trades.

"I truly encourage more of my UA brothers to attend TWBN in the future you will undoubtedly leave inspired by the motivation and positivity experienced at this event,” said UA Local 43, Chattanooga, TN, Training Director Josh Ewing. 

He attended the workshop titled, Moving Beyond Recruitment to Retention: Building Ally Networks in the Workplace. This workshop targeted the men and allies attending the Conference.

“The TWBN Conference is an amazing event," he said. "The energy and excitement throughout the women in organized labor is motivating! I truly believe events like this are key in creating more diversity and equality in these trades. Becoming a male ally in our trade is vital to the growth of our organization and membership. Being an ally isn’t just a title; it’s a role we must be active in, communicating, supporting, and encouraging women in our trade. We always tell one another to be our brother’s keeper. We need to work harder to be our sister’s keeper!”

As the TWBN Conference continues to evolve, it becomes a beacon of hope for women aspiring to make a mark in traditionally male-centric professions. By celebrating achievements, addressing challenges, and fostering collaboration, this Conference not only empowers individual women, it contributes to the collective strength and resilience of the entire trades industry.

UA Local 101, Belleville, IL, journeyman and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Rachel LaBlance had a great experience at TWBN two years in a row.

“This was my second year at the TWBN Conference and so far, both times left with a sense of pride and empowerment to be a woman in the trades," said LaBlance. "It’s very motivational, and I encourage every tradeswoman to attend!”

Tradeswomen Build Nations stands as a pivotal event in the journey towards gender equality in the trades. By promoting inclusivity, fostering skill development, and creating a supportive community, this Conference is instrumental in building a future where women play a crucial role in shaping and advancing the trades industry. Go UA!

Join us at Tradeswomen Build Nations, Sept. 27-29 in New Orleans, LA.

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