Written by Shannon Winslow-Claunch, Guest Contributor
Since 1967, S&B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd., has served the refining, petrochemical, chemical, pulp and paper, midstream, power and infrastructure sectors throughout the country. S&B is a fully integrated engineering, procurement and construction company in Houston that employs nearly 5,000 professionals. As part of S&B’s deep commitment to workforce development, the company recently established a collaborative effort to recruit unemployed female veterans in the Houston area. Through the local United Way chapter and seven other partners in education, faith and financial services, S&B was able to hire 20 women veterans earlier this year to become pipefitters. The program is a model for other organizations looking for proven ways to recruit women into the construction industry.
“Females who have served our country generally know the value of hard work,” said Michael Stilley, S&B’s director of training and development. “They are familiar with OSHA safety standards, know how to follow orders and most don’t mind working with their hands or outside in the elements.”
Women are an untapped resource in the construction industry. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.8 million people worked in the construction industry, of which, only 872,000 were women. Currently, women comprise about five percent of S&B’s total workforce, but the company is hoping to improve that.
“We are committed to finding innovative ways to recruit women, and by doing so, we will ultimately be a more successful and competitive company,” said Stilley. “There was a time when construction appeared to be just for men, but that’s not the case anymore.”
While women still face some unique challenges in the industry, today’s construction projects have evolved to become safer and less labor intensive because of automation, OSHA safety standards, EOC mandates and changing cultural norms, which make working conditions more favorable for women than in the past. Women are also very well-suited for crafts such as instrumentation, welding and electrical because they have superior hand-eye coordination.