A person’s ability to pass an aptitude test is just one piece of the puzzle in helping women determine if and how they should pursue a career in construction. To start that conversation, applicants complete an application, which provides basic demographic information, as well as a health, education, and employment history. They then schedule a time to sit down with staff and tradeswomen for an interview or, more accurately, a “discussion of interest”. Using the interview form and candidate rating sheet available through this website, the goal of this meeting is to: a) assess the applicant’s readiness to succeed in the construction industry and her suitability for participation in the Technical Opportunities Program; and b) to share test results and provide information and guidance to assist the applicant in evaluating their interest in the industry and next steps in the preparation process.
Question 1: Why are you interested in the construction trades? Do you have any related experience? Is there a specific trade you are interested in pursuing?
It is not necessary to have related experience, but clearly that is a factor in assessing immediate options as well as the benefit they will derive from participating in TOP. It is also key to evaluating the nature and sincerity of the applicant’s interest. Even if an applicant has not had paid experience or formal vocational training, you would expect that someone seriously considering a career in construction would have some experiences to relate, even if they were limited to do-it-yourself projects around the house. Though it is unlikely that applicants will have fully formed career goals, the question about trade interest is asked to gage their level of knowledge about the industry and, since different programs have varying requirements, to get a sense of where they are in relation to that goal. In short, this question helps to determine if the applicant understands what she is applying for and is there evidence of this interest.
Question 2: I see you have previous experience in ________. Why change careers now? (as applicable)
It is likely that the majority of women who apply to your program will not yet have established a career in any field and it is obviously not necessary to ask them why they are leaving their part-time, minimum wage job behind them. There are, however, some applicants who are already on a career path and it is important to understand their motivations and their hopes for a career change. In any case, it is a good idea to review the applicant’s work history to gauge the focus and commitment they have brought to other jobs, even if you don’t ask this specific question.
Question 3: What do you see yourself doing in two to three years?
Some years ago CWIT conducted an evaluation of this interview process and found that the strongest correlation between interview answers and eventual entrance into apprenticeship was whether or not their answer to this question contained the word “apprentice”. This demonstrates that they understand how the industry works and are career focused. This does not mean that someone who gives a different answer is likely to fail, but the question does sometimes reveal motives other than working in the industry and an unrealistic view of what can be accomplished within this time frame.
Question 4: What do you know about the challenges of working in the trades and what qualities do you have that will help you succeed?
A good answer to this question would recognize that there are difficulties associated with working in the trades, particularly for women, and that they have thought about how well their strengths match up to the demands. Confidence in answering this question is good, but a denial that there are challenges may reveal a lack of knowledge about the industry and working conditions.
Question 5: How did you hear about this program? What do you expect to get out of this program?
It requires a high level of initiative to gain entrance into an apprenticeship program and the best answers to this question demonstrate a realistic understanding of what the program is offering them. Regardless of the answer, it is an opportunity to clarify what the program can and cannot do, so that the applicant is making an informed decision about whether or not the program will meet her needs.
Question 6: It may take many months following completion of this program to enter apprenticeship, some of which may require you to attend a full-time, unpaid pre-apprenticeship program lasting from two to three months. Is this realistic for you and how will you support yourself during this period?
One of the most common reasons that women fail to complete the Technical Opportunities Program or to enter the trades is the need for immediate employment. Not that this is always incompatible with the longer term goal of entering apprenticeship, but it is important to reiterate the timeline and other financial challenges which, in your area, may or may not include unpaid pre-apprenticeships. Provided the response is genuine, it is an opportunity to educate and strategize around what is possible given the applicant’s circumstances.
Question 7: Are you willing to work outside in extreme weather and filthy, dusty conditions doing physically demanding work?
You can expect nearly everyone to answer yes to this question, but you can’t stress these challenges enough to new applicants.
Question 8: Do you have any physical limitations? If yes, what steps are you taking to remedy this problem?
Most applicants are quick to say no to this question, but it seems to work better if you ask about specific common ailments, such as asthma, back problems, knee pain etc. Not that it is impossible to be an asthmatic construction worker, for example, but you need to know that the applicant is being treated and has the symptoms under control.
Question 9: What other challenges (childcare, transportation etc.) do you anticipate? Are there any steps you can take to resolve these issues?
Similar to the above, the majority of applicants are going to answer no to this question but this is not a tool a weed people out, but a way to prevent problems from occurring.
Question 10: What will you do if you don’t get into this program?
This question often proves to be surprisingly useful. Though the majority of applicants will answer “try again” or something similar, some will reveal that they are in nursing school anyway, for example, which speaks to the clarity of their career goals.