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Updated: May 8, 2024

Building a workforce: Mills aims to put more Maine women in hard hats

Two women on a construction site in Portland File photo / Tim Greenway Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order to bring more women into Maine's construction industry. Shown here are Michaela Curley and Shannon Wiley, both formerly of Landry/French Construction, photographed for a Mainebiz cover story published in July 2022.

To bring more women into Maine’s male-dominated construction workforce, Gov. Janet Mills has signed an executive order outlining measures around recruitment, training and retention.

The order directs several state agencies to better measure the shortage of qualified workers in construction, connect women with employment opportunities and pursue state and federal funding that will help encourage the hiring of women. 

Despite making up only 15% of Maine's construction workforce, women in Maine are slowly chipping away at the industry's glass ceiling in roles from laborers to leaders, as detailed in a 2022 Mainebiz cover story. 

“Women are a crucial part of Maine’s workforce, and they should be welcomed and embraced in every sector of our economy, including those traditionally dominated by men like the construction industry and the trades,” Mills said in a statement.

“This executive order will create pathways for more women to enter and succeed in these important jobs at a time when our state and the industry needs them most,” she added, urging women and girls across the state to consider and pursue lifelong careers in construction.

Mills with people
Photo / Courtesy, Office of Gov. Janet Mills
Gov Janet Mills signed an executive order Monday to improve the recruitment, training and retention of women in Maine's construction industry.

Among other steps, the order directs the Maine Department of Labor to survey contractors, subcontractors, staffing agencies and labor unions based here to determine how many women work for them and the barriers preventing more women from working for them.

The order also directs three state departments, as well as the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, to pursue grant opportunities related to hiring incentives in construction.

“There is a place in Maine’s economy for everyone and the continued growth in construction is creating great opportunities,” said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“This executive order will support our ongoing efforts to connect businesses and workers, which is a priority for our department and a key component of Maine’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy.”

Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said she is especially excited about connecting more women with registered apprenticeship opportunities to earn wages while gaining skills and national certifications.

'Workforce for the future'

Kelly Flagg, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Maine, welcomed the initiative.

“I think today’s executive order is timely as we continue to build our construction workforce for the future,” she told Mainebiz. “It is important that we send the message that there are careers for everyone in this industry and that the doors are open to anyone wishing to investigate a possible future career in construction.” 

She noted that several years ago, her organization adopted an initiative to promote construction as the industry of choice for diverse and talented workers by building inclusive work environments in construction firms nationwide. 

“We have kept this in the forefront of our workforce development efforts and continue to see more diversity in those selecting construction as a career of choice,” Flagg said. 

“Our Maine Construction Academy metrics show a significantly more diverse population than has been historically represented, including showing an increase in women choosing construction."

For 2024, the  program applicant pool was over 25% female, she noted.

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