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This One’s for the Girls!

Lets Build NWIR
June 22, 2022 at 3:00 p.m.

By Lauren White, RCS Editor. 

Let’s Build, a week-long summer camp, introduces young girls to the world of possibilities offered by the trades. 

Let’s Build Construction Camp for Girls is coming to Ohio!  From June 27 to July 1, girls ages 12-16 will congregate at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center (MCCTC) for a full week of exploring what the construction industry has to offer.  Campers will learn how to hold and use a hammer properly, visit a jobsite, construct walls and more.  With a full day dedicated to roofing, girls attending will get a taste of the trades we all know and love. 

While the idea of the Let’s Build Construction Camp for Girls isn’t new, the expansion to Youngstown, Ohio is.  During a National Women in Roofing (NWIR) leadership meeting for council leaders, the women were discussing upcoming project ideas and how they were going to hit their four pillars of networking, mentoring, education and industry recruitment.  Shelly Higgins, architectural and accounts director S-5!®, wanted to come up with a way to fulfill all of the pillars in one project.  “My heart and my passion are youth and mentoring,” Shelly shared.  And then it hit her, “What if we have a camp for girls and we introduce them to the industry?”   

Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, Shelly reached out to LeeAnn Slattery from ATAS International, who guided her to Jon Lattin, who co-founded the Let’s Build Construction Camp for Girls in Allentown, Pennsylvania with Kristen Fallon and Janet Grazul, all AECO professionals in the Lehigh Valley.  The camp was formed out of a desire to introduce Jon's three daughters to the trades.  Shelly was invited to be a part of the committee to get a better idea of how the camp operates and volunteered for the Let’s Build Camp in Pennsylvania last year to get some first-hand experience. 

“It was the most amazing week, we bonded and had the most amazing time,” Shelly shared.  “Watching the transformation from the quiet, meek, mild girl who didn’t know how to hold a hammer and didn’t have a voice, to someone boisterous who came out of her shell and was confident with the hammer, to see that transformation from Monday to Friday was amazing.”  This experience confirmed for Shelly that she truly wanted to make this happen in Ohio, despite the setbacks due to the Coronavirus.  She told me about a girl who told her she wanted to become an electrical engineer.  "And after camp, she went home and fixed a light that hadn’t worked in their home for six years and was able to rewire and fix it,” Shelly shared.   

With a newfound energy to make this camp a reality, Shelly reached out to Maureen Greeves, strategic program manager at Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance and education chair for NWIR, to see if Tremco wanted to be involved in facilitating the roofing day of the Let’s Build Camp.  “Everyone at Tremco was on board,” Maureen shared.  “We all are in the trades and think the trades are so important.  I have daughters, the trades are so important to me because the trades don’t get promoted to girls enough as a solid career path.” 

The event snowballed from there.  Shelly is on the Cleveland chapter of Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and shared that “CSI Foundation approached the founders to adopt the program and wanted to take it national.”  NWIR signed up to be a sponsor and partner with them.  This Let’s Build Camp in Ohio is the guinea pig for the national rollout!  Shelly emphasized that this is more than just NWIR though, this is all trades.  She has gone to electrical and plumber and pipe fitter unions who have all been eager to contribute, connecting her with instructors from their apprenticeship programs to help out with the camp.  For the unions, this construction camp has a bigger mission than introducing girls to the trades, the future goal is to help bring shop classes back into high schools.  By showing a stronger focus on girls and minorities getting introduced to and interested in the trades, it will help prove that shop classes belong in high schools nationwide.   

The outpouring of support "has been amazing, it’s been humbling,” Shelly shared.  Matt Campbell, the principal of MCCTC, was the only school to respond to Shelly’s request and shared the facility at no cost to LBCC.  MCCTC has everything they need to facilitate the camp, including a theater type AV lecture room for presentations, tools, equipment, and most important, space to accommodate the campers, volunteers and instructors.  Milwaukie donated tools for the girls’ toolbags, Tremco is donating hard hats and RoofersCoffeeShop® is donating fandanas and stickers for the girls’ hard hats.  And the swag keeps coming from so many others. 

“All of the trades are coming together which is a great thing to see,” Maureen shared.  “It's just a lot of really good people and putting aside the business competition side of things to come together for this.”  It truly has taken a village to make this happen.  Manufacturers are asking Shelly, “What do you need?”  NWIR women have stepped up to help and volunteer, S-5! has worked with Shelly’s schedule to help her make this camp a reality, Shari Carlozzi, architectural sales manager at FiberTite Roofing, has connected Shelly with people in the media, Heather Estes at GAF is sending shingles, and IIBEC, CSI and AIA have all made contributions to make the camp successful.  “A lot of people have really stepped up to help.  Once everyone hears it’s a camp for girls, everyone wants to be a part of it,” Maureen shared.  Banner Supply, a local materials distributor in Ohio told Shelly, “Just tell me what you need and I’ll make sure it’s there.”  

“I can’t wait for camp!” Shelly exclaimed.  When the girls get to camp at the beginning of the week, they work on their skills.  Through games, the girls will learn how to read a tape measure and hold and use a hammer.  Then at the end of the week they play the same games to see how their skills improved.  Throughout the week, girls will explore architecture, engineering, carpentry, plumbing, masonry, HVAC and more.  They can also look forward to: 

  • Vocon and Sherwin-Williams talking about interior design 
  • Vocon sharing technology used in the trades through the Oculus, a virtual reality headset 
  • Building 2x4 walls and putting those together to create a 90-degree corner 
  • Finishing walls with drywall and painting 
  • Adding exterior to the walls – one wall is going to have masonry and the other will be vinyl siding 
  • Installing working GFCI outlet, light switch and light fixtures 
  • Plumbing a vanity sink 

It’s going to be a fun week for the campers.  “Wednesday is roofing day.  We could’ve done a whole week of roofing, but we’re for sure having a roofing day,” Shelly shared.  The campers will get introduced to metal, asphalt, slate, single-ply and fluid-applied roofing.  ATAS is a premier sponsor of the camp and is coming in to do some metal roofing with the campers.  FiberTite will be helping the girls with the TPO.  The Durable Slate Co. will teach them slate installation.  Tremco is giving the campers hands-on experience with fluid-applied roofing.  Thursday is a field trip to Clark Dietrich to see how metal studs are made and campers will also get to see a jobsite in progress.  Tremco is also sponsoring a lunch and learn during the week.  “Lorna Rojas is leading a panel discussion about different career opportunities within the roofing industry,” Maureen shared.  Panelists will include people from the field, such as a chemist and architect, providing “good representation of career paths for these girls to learn from,” according to Maureen.  And on Friday, Stephanie Kiriazes, engineer at Firestone Building Products, will be doing a lunch and learn to introduce the campers to the various engineering careers in the construction industry. 

At the end of the week is a party for the parents to see what the girls accomplished, in addition to a debrief with the girls to learn what they did and didn’t like, what they would want to change and do they like doing construction.  All this information will be pivotal moving forward. 

This camp is just the beginning!  “I’m looking to take this further than, ‘Ok camp is over, see you later.’  I want to put something together where they have resources and people to reach out to,” Shelly explained.  By continuing the conversation, the campers gain mentors and resources to help with their future in the trades.  In doing this it shows the investment beyond the camp and demonstrates, “We’re here, we will answer your questions, and we will help however we can to facilitate your future in the industry,” Shelly said.  This might include breakout clinics and camps for girls who want to learn more about a specific trade.   

“There's a lot of conversation about taking this model and blowing it up across the country,” Maureen shared.  And according to Shelly, there are people in Michigan, Atlanta and Cleveland who have already expressed interest in having a camp in their locations.  “We're not just doing this because it looks good, we truly love the trades, and if someone wants to pursue a career in the trades we absolutely want to facilitate that for them, no matter the trade,” Maureen shared.  “It's great to push some representation in those trades.” 

The main takeaway Shelly wants the girls to get from the camp is that, “NWIR will not fail our girls.  We are here to show them that no matter what they want to do, they can do it in roofing or construction.” 

Learn more about NWIR in their RoofersCoffeeShop Directory or visit www.nationalwomeninroofing.org.  



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