Local business owner hopes to increase number of women in construction industry

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Only 10 percent of employees in the construction industry are women.

It’s a male-dominated industry, but it’s something the National Association of Women in Construction is wanting to change.

Kelly Eustace has been running Heating and Plumbing Engineers, a 70-year-old family business, for the last 12 years.

Now she’s leading the way to create a more diverse workplace.

“Women are great at project management and multitasking and a lot of construction encompasses project management and multitasking,” said Eustace, chairman and Chief Operations Officer of HPE.

Eustace says the construction industry is a great career path for women.

She says the pay gap is relatively small, regardless if women go into accounting, human resources, project management or engineering.

“A lot of conversations are happening at the state level right now on how we bring young people into this industry and show them the opportunities that these jobs afford them if they’re not ready for post secondary education,” Eustace said.

To help fill the shortage of skilled labor Colorado is seeing, Eustace created the Training for Plumbing and Piping Apprenticeship program at HPE.

“We do soldering, pipe gluing, which is mostly on like, plastic pipe. We also have a weld shop on the other side over here,” said 24-year-old Lakisha Sheppard, who has been an apprentice since August of last year.

Students can earn a license after completing the four-year program, while gaining experience.

“Everyone I work with, they’re really patient on whatever level of knowledge you have with the trade. You know, if you’re starting from rock bottom or you know, if you already know a little bit. We all work together and they make sure no one gets left behind, they make sure everyone knows what they’re doing before they’re just you know, left alone with sharks,” Sheppard said.

HPE pays 100 percent of the cost of the apprenticeship program over four years.

Right now, nearly 50 people are part of the program and they’re set to graduate in May.

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