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STEMblazers explore career options while touring U.S. Engineering Metalworks facility

Oct 21, 2021

In honor of AGC’s first annual Construction Inclusion Week, U.S. Engineering Metalworks (USEMX) hosted STEMblazers students from the Denver metro region at our manufacturing facility in Johnstown, Colorado. STEMblazers is a nonprofit network of diverse middle and high school clubs that encourages young women to explore careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Fifteen students, two mentors and STEMblazers Executive Director/Founder Wendy Merchant attended the tour.

Scott Hager, Vice President for Rocky Mountain Metalworks, welcomed the group and gave an overview of the USEMX facility. Manufacturing Engineer Ronnie Clark talked about and demonstrated how we use Revit BIM 360 3D digital drawings to coordinate plumbing, mechanical, structural, architectural and electrical systems. The mechanical and plumbing information is spooled directly to our manufacturing equipment to enhance quality in production and construction. Manufacturing mechanical and plumbing systems in a controlled environment at ground level instead of ladders and lifts in the field also promotes safety.

During the visit, craftswomen, including Plumbing Production Manager Janice Snidow, Pipefitter Apprentice Thalia Hernandez-Medina, Pipefitter Apprentice Amber-Marie Bumpus and Plumbing Journeywoman Coley Maurer, shared stories about their career paths in construction. They discussed how free company-sponsored union apprenticeships changed their lives for the better. Without accruing any debt, apprentices work during the day for USEMX and go to school in the evening several times a week to learn their trades. Mechanical and plumbing apprenticeships gave these women access to well-paying jobs.

Following the presentation, the STEMblazers observed plumbing soldering; large diameter pipe welding; and multi-trade, prefabricated pump skids on the manufacturing floor. The USEMX facility uses best-in-class manufacturing equipment, including automatic robotic welding machines, plasma pipe cutters, plasma tables, laser cutters and VR technology. Based on these demonstrations, STEMblazers could visualize the advancements taking place in construction and how components come together to form mechanical systems and, ultimately, buildings.

Currently women make up only 10% of construction industry workers and 3.4% of field craftworkers (source). Black, Hispanic, Asian and women of mixed race make up 45% of craftswomen (source). At the same time, the construction industry is experiencing a shortage of workers. The benefit to women entering the construction industry is that the median salary for people working in construction is 20% higher than the median salary in the United States. Moreover, construction provides the most pay parity between women and men out of any industry, with women earning 99% of what men are paid (source). 

The USEMX team advises STEMblazers and others interested in a career in mechanical construction to visit the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 9 Colorado union, Denver Pipefitters Local 208 union or Plumbers Local Union 3 websites to find out more about apprenticeships. A person must be 18 years old or older to apply. After candidates apply through the union, USEMX or U.S. Engineering Construction can then hire and sponsor individuals who are completing their apprenticeships. Apprenticeships last for 5 years, and then the individual achieves journeywoman or journeyman status. Apprentices train for five years before achieving journeywoman or journeyman status.

U.S. Engineering is a Marion Downs corporate partner for STEMblazers. We thoroughly enjoyed hosting these future women leaders at our MX facility and hope to continue our partnership for years to come!

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