When it comes to “soaking up” building skills, many women get left behind. Not many of us sat next to our dads or moms and taught how to use tools to build a fort or fix a broken drawer. This imbalance shows up later, in the data on construction careers. Only 9% of professional construction workers are women; and nearly 70% of the power tool buying decisions are made by men.
For the last decade or so, however, change has come to the construction site. According to Contractor Magazine, Between 2017 and 2018, the number of women working in construction trades increased by 17.6 percent, rising to well over a quarter of a million women (276,000). Women in construction make nearly 94 cents for every dollar made by men, considerably higher than the 81 cent average in other industries.
You may not necessarily want to drop what you’re doing and get your contractor’s license. But hey, think about all of the projects around the house and outside that need some attention. That shabby fence section in the back yard. You desperately need some more towel racks. Heck, maybe you want to build your own she shed. Maybe it’s time for some basic lessons. Here are some practical ways to get the lessons and experience you need.
1. Woodworking classes and workshops. These can be tricky to find since you have to know what search terms to use to find them in your area. We found a great organization in Northern California called The Crucible. A non-profit industrial arts education facility, The Crucible teaches a variety of classes from blacksmithing to woodworking. Wild Abundance is located in the mountains of western North Carolina. This permaculture and homesteading school teaches people how to realize their dream of “land-based living.” Wouldn’t it be amazing to take their course on Women’s Basic Carpentry?
2. Home Depot and Lowes. Our trusty big-box home improvement stores often have DIY classes that vary according to the season; right now they are offering a class on Spring Lawn Prep. Online, Home Depot has a ton of guides, both photo-based and video-based, that explain how to use tools like a scroll saw, or build cool things like a shoe rack. Lowes in particular has an interesting array of projects and lessons — for example, one lesson shows you how to operate an augur so you can dig post holes for a deck.
3. Video instruction. YouTube is a planet rich with information, lessons and how-tos. The problem is how long it takes to figure out the right search terms. Then you have to sift through videos to find something that will really help you learn. Some videos assume you know a certain skill (like how to change a drill bit) and, um, you don’t. One general tip is to learn how to effectively search: Use very basic phrases such as “power drill lesson” and “how to change a drill bit.” We dug around and found a few sites that offered a series of lessons covering a variety of power tools. One is called “Woodworking for Mere Mortals.” Steve Ramsey, the host, is high energy but he is articulate and sensible. He offers dozens of easy-to-follow videos that show everything. To try him out check out his video on how to use power drills and impact drivers.
4. Adult Education. Lots of websites advise people who want to learn building skills to “check their local community colleges.” This is sometimes tougher than it sounds. For one thing, online course catalogs vary in terminology; you could be searching for “power tools” and the course you want is listed as “industrial arts” or “construction.” After a bit of experimenting the search words “how to find adult education classes in woodworking” turned up some promising results. Here in California we found some great-sounding courses at The Palo Alto Adult School. Likely you can find similar programs where you live.
There’s nothing like a few DIY skills to make you feel confident and empowered. The bonus: No more waiting for a procrastinating spouse. We love learning about using tools and fixing/making things ourselves. We also would love you to leave a comment if you have a hot tip on woodworking or other DIY instruction resources. Let’s be the hub!