As Women in Construction Week was celebrated across the country earlier this month (March 4-10, 2018), several middle and high school-age girls and their mothers (or female guardians) were introduced to the idea of a career in construction through a unique event in the Southeast themed, Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing!
Now in its third year, this one-of-a-kind event – founded in Birmingham – is a key component of Dr. Mittie Cannon’s personal vision for familiarizing girls with the construction industry at an early age, so that they are aware of the opportunities available to them. “Power UP” has gained so much traction in Alabama, Dr. Cannon has hopes of bringing the event to the Carolinas in 2019.
“The topic of women in construction has always been true to my heart, and I want Power UP to be an industry model. Women are an untapped resource in our industry and can be the solution to construction’s growing workforce challenges,” said Dr. Cannon.
Dr. Cannon started her career in the construction industry as an electrical helper. She worked in various parts of the Carolinas in the early days of her career. Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Cannon recruited and mentored the first female welder in the history of the ABC National Craft Championships to take top honors in welding. She received her doctorate in educational leadership from University of Phoenix.
Her passion for sharing her love of the industry with other females led her to start the 501(c)(3) non-profit youth organization, Power UP Inc., for which Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing! is the signature event. By day, she is Manager of Workforce Development for Wood, a global leader in the delivery of project, engineering and technical services to energy and industrial markets with offices throughout the Southeast, including an office in Greenville, S.C.
For Dr. Cannon, expanding Power UP’s reach beyond Alabama is the next obvious step. “The only way to reach young girls outside of Birmingham is to take Power UP to them,” said Dr. Cannon. “We now have a successful model to work from, so we are in a perfect position to replicate it in other states. I do not believe there is an event anywhere in the country that’s remotely similar to ours in terms of the way it’s set up and administered. Power UP is not tied to a particular corporation or organization… it was founded by an individual who is supported by many volunteers. Another key differentiator is required parental participation.”
In 2017, Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing! was recognized nationally as the recipient of the ABC’s Top Chapter | Best Practice Champion Award at the annual Conference of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). “Our goal with Power UP is to inspire mothers and daughters to be empowered by the construction industry. To accomplish this, not only do we reach out locally, but also extend our relationship reach to contractors, owners, and successful women from across the United States. In addition to our many sponsors and exhibitors – some local, some national – successful female (and male) construction industry executives from around the country come to our event as volunteer speakers or panelists, or simply to network. For the girls, there’s nothing more impactful than meeting role models who have had successful journeys in the construction industry,” she said.
Dr. Cannon elaborated on the level of industry buy-in for Power UP. “So many people are more than willing to share their knowledge and love for the industry with a new generation to help ensure that our future workforce is made up of the best and brightest. They realize it’s a win-win for everyone – owners, contractors, educators and the community – and want to be a part of it. This collaborative effort creates partnerships at all levels and removes barriers as factors in developing a diversified and stronger construction industry workforce.”
Power UP: It’s a Mother Daughter Thing! is designed to be a small event – only 75 spots – to ensure that mothers and daughters receive quality, one-on-one attention. During the event, mothers and daughters visit three different stations to learn about higher education, talk with contractors, conduct hands-on activities and participate in a panel discussion led by successful women in the industry. However, since the inception of Power UP hundreds of middle and high school-age girls and their mothers (or female guardians) have been exposed to the unlimited opportunities within construction.
“Power UP actually promotes construction careers to women of all ages. When it comes to getting girls interested in construction we need parent buy-in, which is why the event is a mother-daughter thing,” said Dr. Cannon.
The 2018 Power UP event had over 200 participants, employer partners, educators, successful women, volunteers and training providers. “We are extremely pleased with this year’s outcome. The construction community and our education partners have been so helpful and supportive of our efforts,” she said.
Objectives of Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing!
According to a 2014 U.S. Department of Labor report, over 9 million people work in the construction industry yet only 8.9 percent are women. Moreover, of the small segment of women in the industry the vast majority serve in administrative or clerical positions. In order to attract female participation in the construction workforce on the same levels of female participation in sectors such as healthcare, education and finance, it is critical to educate them about career opportunities in the construction industry at a young age. With construction careers still considered nontraditional options for women, most girls are not encouraged to explore skilled trades such as carpentry, electrical, welding and plumbing.
Power Up: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing! seeks to create dialogue between young women and their mothers about these opportunities through:
- Educating girls and their mothers on pathways into the construction industry
- Engaging girls and their mothers through one-on-one dialogue with women in the industry
- Exploring the construction industry with hands-on activities that reflect real-world situations
About Power UP, Inc.- Power UP Inc. is a non-profit youth organization leading the charge toward engaging young girls, along with their mothers, to explore careers in the construction industry. Power UP Inc. is the first organization of its kind, and has been at the forefront of educating young talent, creating partnerships at all levels and removing barriers as factors in developing a diversified and stronger workforce for the construction industry. Want to make a difference by getting involved and/or donating? Visit https://www.poweruploud.org/take-action/