Taylor DeLong used to be the first person you saw as you walked through the front door at Bombard Electric in Las Vegas, Nevada. You won’t find her there anymore, though. She now spends her days at MSG Sphere working as a first-year apprentice on her way to becoming a journeyman electrician.
DeLong, a single mom of two kids ages 6 and 8, said she changed career paths to create a better life for herself and her kids.
“I loved my job in the office, but I wanted to be able to grow and have a better future,” she said. “I want to do things like surprise my kids with a trip to Disneyland. I wasn’t in a position to do that before.”
In 2019 DeLong expressed her interest in working in the field to Bombard Electric President Ken Kefalas. Kefalas fully supported her ambitions.
“He told me, ‘Go for it, and don’t give up,’” she said.
The United States is experiencing a severe shortage of skilled workers. For people like DeLong looking to build a better life, the construction industry is a land of opportunity offering competitive wages, career advancement and job security.
For women, competitive wages in construction are particularly noteworthy. While women in other industries and professions are paid on average just 81% of what men are paid, full-time female construction workers earn 99% of what men are paid.
Bombard Electric Superintendent Mike Davis said the company has more than 30 women working on the MSG Sphere project in Las Vegas, including project managers, project engineers, project administrators, foremen, general foremen, journeyman wireman apprentices and safety personnel.
He estimates there are around 100 women working at the project site among the various contractors and trades.
“Women are a great asset on our team,” Davis said. “And if we’re going to grow as a trade, we need more women and more diversification.”
Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. recently recognized women working in construction at its MSG Sphere project in Las Vegas, Nevada. The group in this photo includes more than 30 Bombard Electric employees.
When Davis worked as a general foreman in the early 1990s, women weren’t readily accepted in the construction industry.
“I’ve always encouraged women to join the trade,” he said. “They’re positive, helpful and hard working.”
When Erin Barnett joined the industry 13 years ago as an apprentice, she said there were maybe 10 women in her class of 120 and the retention rate was low.
“The environment is not easy. Back then especially you’d show up on a job and everyone would assume the worst,” she said. “Foremen would panic; some would refuse a female apprentice. You had to prove yourself to every new face.”
Now working as a general foreman at Bombard Electric, Barnett said she’s seen a shift in attitude toward women on the job in recent years.
“It’s really cool to see everyone becoming more accepting. With more women on the job comes more inclusivity, which will yield better retention,” Barnett said.
Retention is important in these days of labor shortages and recruitment challenges.
“We have so much work right now,” Barnett said.
Looking to the future
First-year apprentices spend two days a week in the classroom and the rest of the week working in the field. DeLong said she was overwhelmed at the beginning.
“I hadn’t been to school for 10 years,” she said. “But the more I worked, the more I understood the stuff I was learning in the classroom. The dots started connecting.”
DeLong said balancing her work schedule and day care for her kids is challenging. She said she reminds them that things might be hard right now, but it’ll be much better in a couple years.
“Taking this job changed my life,” DeLong said. “I love my job, and now I have a career and a really bright future.”