Five industry experts shared their experiences breaking into the construction field as women to introduce to other young women where the potential is in drafting, architecture, engineering, carpentry, plumbing and heating and other specialties.

The Nevada State Contractors Board’s (NSCB) annual Hammers and Hope gave a glimpse into where the entry-level positions are and the skills employers are looking for to guide women in the field with job training and apprenticeships.

“I don’t think there’s any job you can’t do,” Allyson Wong, architect and co-owner of GuiDenby, Inc., based in Reno, told the crowd of students attending Hammers and Hope. “You need to be mobile. You need to work smarter.”

The NSCB hosted the event March 7 at Truckee Meadows Community College’s Applied Technology Center at 475 Edison Way in Reno. The discussion and job fair provided high school students and young women a chance to explore future job opportunities not just on a construction site but in accounting, human resources, office or project management and marketing and other areas for which local companies are constantly recruiting or training. “Mentor” breakout sessions also gave attendees a chance to talk with representatives about future recruitment opportunities or to ask questions about skills or classes to prepare for a future in the field.

Women make up about 13% of the current construction workforce, according to Margi Grein, executive officer for the NSCB and moderator of the panel featuring the guest speakers. She said most organizations are constantly seeking out new talent.

“It’s important that we let young women know that construction is a career path that they may not have thought about before. I know what it’s done for me personally,” Grein said.

Grein started in the NSCB’s accounting department in 1986 and gradually advanced her way up, learning about operations and consumer protection before being offered her current position, where she has been for 26 years, she said.

“You look at the construction industry and they’re the ones building our schools and our highways and our houses and everything else in between, and some of our most successful businesspeople in our state are contractors,” she said.

Hammers & Hope panelists Crystal Walker, project engineer for Martin Harris Construction, left, and Hanna Gibson, assistant project manager for Metcalf Builders, give career advice at the NSCB event held at Truckee Meadows Community College’s Applied Technology Center on March 7.

During the panel discussion, Morgan Weber of Silver State Masonry encouraged women to manage their own work and not to take office positions lightly as they start their careers.

“Entry level is very simple to get into,” Weber advised. “You have a buddy supervisor to work with. Make sure you don’t do anything dumb. They’re teaching you the job. … And another thing I think is needed in the field is office management or administrative aides. Don’t take them lightly. They do rely on you. … So there’s lot of job opportunities in construction. Dial in what your work life looks like.”

Crystal Walker, project engineer with Martin Harris Construction, agreed there’s a variety of jobs on the horizon for anyone interested in pursuing whatever their interest might be.

“There’s other things outside swinging the hammer that everyone looks out for,” Walker said.

She gave helpful hints that apply to any industry, including keeping the right mindset in a collaborative environment.

“…In construction there are many personalities and there still are the gruff, old men that don’t have any polish that are just going to be grumpy no matter what you do, and then there’s going to be the women you have to work with that aren’t going to be nice,” Walker said. “You just have to be willing to work with any personality.”

Emma Crossman, project manager for Sierra Nevada Construction, said after the discussion that to be a part of Hammers & Hope meant helping other young women how to break down any stereotypes in the construction industry.

“I’m trying to help them understand that it’s not that intimidating,” she said. “We’re looking for more people. We shouldn’t discount our young ladies just because the standard is guys wanting to go into the industry.”

Hanna Gibson, an assistant project manager with Metcalf Builders and another panelist, said she’s worked for about nine years and said some are still surprised when she shares her experience entering the field. Before Metcalf, she worked as an intern elsewhere, worked full-time for a year and completed her construction management certificate. Now she supports the superintendents on project sites.

“It can be very intimidating,” she said. “I’m like, wow, this is a man’s world, but you just have to find your lane in it. … My grandma was one (to react). I love her to death, but she’s like, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ It’s work, it’s my job. But you also kind of just get used to it.”

The event also featured job fair tables for participants to collect information from professionals in the area. Participating organizations included TMCC, the NSCB, Metcalf Builders, Martin Harris Construction, Northern Nevada Sheet Metal Workers Apprenticeship and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

Ben “Leo” Aleeson Corpos, a junior at North Valleys High School in Reno, said the event piqued her interest, sharing she’s had a lifelong fascination in architecture. She also was encouraged that more women are gradually entering the field.

“When you think of architecture, you think of math, right? So I’m definitely going to need a little more improvement on the imagination and writing and drawing wise so I can imagine and draw up my plans for other people to know what I’m thinking,” Corpos said.