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Sparking Change in the Trades

Electrical apprentice in classroom

After working in the food industry for 15 years, Jenny Conrardy desired a more fruitful life for her and her son. With her passion for creating a cleaner environment, the transition from a career in local and sustainable foods and agriculture to renewable energy and electricity was an easy one to make.

In 2021, Conrardy, of Plymouth, began working at Current Electric in Wauwatosa. Soon after she started, Conrardy proved herself a hardworking, dedicated employee and was selected for an apprenticeship to gain electrical training at Moraine Park. She specializes in solar photovoltaic technology.

“Electrical work is so diverse in terms of the applications—there is always something new to learn and explore,” Conrardy said. “Solar energy is booming, and it is a newer technology, so it is exciting and ever-changing. It’s hard to see what the future will hold, but I am excited to see where this new career path takes me.”

Through the apprenticeship, Conrardy earns a wage while she attends her classes, and her employer pays tuition and book expenses. She attends class one full day every other week, making it easier to maintain income and learn at the same time. She will complete her apprenticeship and earn her journeyworker’s license in 2025. She is the only woman in her class.

“There is a labor gap occurring in the trades right now,” she said. “More people are retiring or leaving the trades than are getting hired. That labor gap paired with a more modern, equality-driven culture means that there is plenty of room for everyone that has a strong work ethic to find a career in the trades.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 1.7 percent of electricians in the United States are women.

“The trades are a great fit for any person who loves to work with their hands and problem solve,” Conrardy said. “The trades have historically been a white, male-dominated industry, but I think there is a lot of room and willingness in the industry to open that demographic right now. Not just for women, but also for people of color and the LGBTQ community. I encourage people to take that first step, don’t let anyone say no and keep moving forward.”

MPTC Electricity Instructor, Gus Boyle-Gustavos
Gus Boyle-Gustavos, MPTC Electricity Instructor

“It’s not a secret that trade careers offer high-paying, reliable jobs, and women deserve to have high-paying jobs. My observations have been that many women tend to still believe that trade workplaces are rough and unaccepting,” Gus Boyle-Gustavos, Moraine Park Electricity Instructor, said. “I have been working in male-dominated occupations my entire life and have always had colleagues who want to see me be successful and pave the way for other women.”

March 15th, 2023by Emilie Thielen