Liberty University student working to encourage more women to learn about careers in construction

Less than a quarter of the positions in the construction industry is being filled by women

ALTAVISTA, Va. – This week is Women in Construction Week, and with less than a quarter of the construction industry being women, this is a chance to highlight opportunities and the work that women are doing in the industry.

Daphne Swavely is a Junior at Liberty University who also participates in CTE courses with the Virginia Technical Institute. She wants to help other girls realize there is a place for everyone to work and grow in construction.

Swavely says, “The trades are in need of people they are in need of women, and we balance each other out in that.”

She is taking carpentry courses at VTI along with majoring in Linguistics and Project Management at Liberty University. She said she was nervous when she first started taking courses in construction.

“I thought that I had to be a tough cookie coming in because I thought that I had to hold my own in these classes that are male-dominated, and I didn’t want to be looked down on,” says Swavely.

Daphne says she wasn’t seen as any different. Everyone was extremely welcoming and respectful.

She says, “We were all learning. We were all students, and I never had a moment where I was like, ‘oh, I am not a part of the group.”

At VTI, she said her instructors are what made her fall in love with construction. She says they were extremely helpful and hands-on.

“We learned from foundations to roof systems to everything in between from rough carpentry to finished carpentry,” says Swavely.

She even had a chance to build a one-room shed that has a full floor system, full wall system, doors, windows and ceiling. She says they had to estimate it from the beginning, which was helpful to see the full scope of the project and work with a team to make it happen.

“They are putting the finished carpentry in that now, which is a full start-to-finish project of everything we have learned so far.”

David Sage, the Executive Director at Virginia Technical Institute, says that right now, only about 5% of their students are women.

Sage says, “There is definitely a need for women in construction. Construction trades have a huge vacuum of employees, and they need more employees to fill those roles.”

Sage says every industry in the trade field is desperate for workers. He said the average age for a tradesperson is 58 years old. He says if we don’t have folks coming into the industry and learning to understand the trade, there is going to be a problem.

“Right now, the need is great, but seven years from now, the need is going to be desperate,” says Sage.

Daphne says taking these classes and exploring new interests has taught her so much about herself.

Swavely says, “Coming into a world like this where I knew nothing about it and being able to catch on and really adapt and learn well was astonishing to me that I was able to do that.”

Daphne is getting ready to compete in the Skills USA State Competition in Virginia Beach for carpentry in April. Her team gets blueprints and instructions on what to build. They only have a certain amount of time to put everything together in hopes of bringing back the State Championship.

Right now her team is raising money to be able to travel to the competition and compete to show off their skills. If you would like to help them, you can donate on Give Send Go.