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Governor Mills Signs Executive Order to Increase Women’s Employment in Maine’s Construction Industry

Andy O’Brien
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Governor Janet Mills signed an Executive Order on Monday to improve the recruitment, training, and retention of women in Maine’s construction industry. This Executive Order will help expand programs like the Union Construction Academy of Maine and building trades unions and support innovative efforts to recruit and train more women around the state.

It aims to alleviate Maine’s severe construction workforce shortage, particularly as the state is poised to utilize funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to strengthen roads, bridges, broadband connectivity, and other vital infrastructure needs.

Women currently make up just 15 percent of Maine’s construction industry and only 11 percent of the industry nationally. The Executive Order directs several state agencies to take a series of actions to better measure the shortage of qualified workers in the construction industry, connect women with industry employment opportunities, and pursue state and federal funding to incentivize the hiring of women.

Speaking at the press conference, IBEW 1253 apprentice Jillian Rackliffe described how she learned about the IBEW 1253 Pre-Apprenticeship Program while a student at Nokomis Regional High School. She said she liked doing hand-on work, but was hesitant at first because no had ever suggested that she, as a woman, join a trade.

“I never would have gotten on the pathway to become a Union electrician if I hadn't had the opportunity to learn hands-on skills and build confidence in my abilities there,” said Rackliffe. “My experience in the program got me OSHA and CPR/first aid certified, and gave me a sense of the benefits that careers in the construction industry could offer. This includes not only life long skills and Union protection, but retirement pensions, health insurance, and other important benefits.”

Since graduating from high school last June, Rackliffe has been working in her trade on a several inside jobs and solar field sites. She said the “sister and brotherhood” is like “one big family” and the experience has been “empowering.”

“Being a Union electrician so far has been a great experience,” she continued. “I’d encourage anyone, especially fellow women to take the chance and join, even if it’s nerve wracking. We have always been told construction is a man's job, but seeing everyone and myself work together it’s simply not true. I hope to see more women join, not only to benefit themselves, but to better our Union into a large, diverse, powerful team!”

Specifically, the Governor’s Executive Order directs:

  • The Department of Labor to survey Maine-based contractors, subcontractors, staffing agencies, and labor unions to determine how many women work for them; what barriers are preventing more women from working for them; and what approach they are already taking to recruit and retain women in the construction sector in Maine.


  • The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Economic and Community Development to connect businesses in the construction industry with women studying the trades in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and higher education institutions as well as unemployed people and job seekers registered with Maine’s Career Centers.


  • The Departments of Transportation and Economic and Community Development, as well as the Governor’s Energy Office, to collect and share data from contractors and subcontractors who receive funding through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. The data will identify the characteristics, including gender, of the workers that are already part of these construction projects; identify how many more workers we need to complete infrastructure projects; and identify what supports, including training, exist to help workers fill those needs.


  • The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Economic and Community Development, and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future will pursue grant opportunities to incentivize the hiring of women in the construction industry.