Trade industries fair highlights the ‘other’ four-year college

Women in Trades Metro Transit event table

The Women in Trades Fair offers information from every field, including King County Metro.

For more than 35 years, the Women in Trades Fair has helped young women (and some young men) learn about career opportunities in diverse industries from transportation and utilities to maintenance, energy, and more. The event is held every spring at the Seattle Center, and is attended by more than 1,000 people.

Over 80 exhibitors are featured at the fair, providing workshops, first-hand learning opportunities, career information and resources. Notable exhibitors have included Seattle Pipe Trades, Pacific Northwest Ironworkers, and last year’s first place exhibition winner, King County Wastewater Treatment Division. The Fair is a great way to meet people in the trades and build connections for a future career.

“The Fair is where we can plant the seed for a different opportunity,” said Linda Romanovitch, Carpenter Foreman for King County Executive Services Facilities Management Division. “It gives people a place to say ‘Oh yeah, I think I’ll check that out.’”

Linda Romanovitch, the first woman carpenter at King County, holds a jobs sign and union jacket at a past Fair.

Linda Romanovitch, the first woman carpenter at King County, holds a jobs sign and union jacket at a past Fair.

Linda has been with the County more than 30 years, becoming the first female carpenter in 1984. She has actively participated in the Fair from her first year, striving to promote the trades as a viable career path for women.

“I am the point person for our division section who leads our group in participating in the Fair,” Linda said. “Each year we have a meeting to discuss a hands-on project people can build at our exhibit.”

Linda stresses how this practical, tactile engagement at the Facilities Management Division booth gets people to open up and consider an opportunity in the trades. The hands-on project is a Fair favorite, and has led to many “best of show” awards for FMD.

“When people have something to work on, like a toolbox, all of a sudden they say ‘Wow I did that,’” she said. “You can then have a conversation with them to say, ‘Well, what do you think of this?’”

“It’s a great way to talk about the industries as a good career path. I call it the ‘other’ four-year college.”

The fair also allows Linda and others to share details about the trades that many people do not receive otherwise. She shares her personal narrative and career path to emphasize how supportive King County has been in encouraging her success and other women in the trades.

“My grandfather was a Portuguese immigrant who worked with his hands building things, and I liked to help him,” she said. “Through an apprenticeship, and then working with the union and King County I can help facilitate a place for women in non-traditional employment.”

“That would be the legacy I’d like to leave,” she said. “To push this, to keep moving forward to create opportunities for women in trades.”

Linda recommends anyone who’s interested to come out and attend the Women in Trades Fair, explaining that while it can be intimidating to enter a career path dominated generally by men, it can be a truly rewarding and eye-opening life opportunity.

“It’s not just women, the fair is men and women promoting women in trades together,” she said. “Pursuing a career in the trades industry is about finding the confidence within.”

“It’s there, don’t be afraid,” she said. “It’s really just a matter of going for it.”

The 2016 Women in Trades Fair will be held Friday, May 6, 2016 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center. For more information visit www.wawomenintrades.com.