Courtney Newberg – Climbing to New Heights as an IronworkerFebruary 22, 2023
I never expected to be an ironworker when I was younger. I came out west chasing a passion for snowboarding and the mountains. While working at Mt. Hood, I got to a point where I wanted options to earn higher wages, and have a career that could provide more benefits. I saw construction work as a possibility, and more importantly I could see myself doing the work and enjoying it.
I started looking at many of the opportunities offered by local trade unions, and really started to get interested in becoming an ironworker. I had no construction background so I wasn’t sure where I needed to start. That’s where Oregon Tradeswomen helped me find a path forward. Oregon Tradeswomen promotes success for women in the building trades. I applied to their pre-apprenticeship program where I could build fundamental skills and knowledge. They helped me prepare my résumé, run through interview questions, and complete my apprenticeship application with the local ironworkers union.
I’ve been an apprentice now for three years, and have one more year before I complete my training. I’ve also completed related training as a certified welder. Apprenticeships require you to complete thousands of hours of on-the-job experience, as well as proving that you have developed related skills. My apprenticeship has been a great option for me because I can learn a new career, and earn a living while doing it.
There are many different types of ironwork. As an ironworker most of the time I work on structural projects, large projects like skyscrapers or stadiums. I help place those large steel beams you’ve probably seen when a large building is going up. Maybe it’s my time working in the mountains, but I love the rush of working at tall heights. The work I’m doing, and the worksite I’m on can change every day. I love working together with my crew to work through plans, identify challenges, and find solutions.
So much of what we see across the skyline of Portland was built by ironworkers. The community I have from Oregon Tradeswomen and my local union have really helped me stay passionate about this career. My apprenticeship is taking me to new heights; I’m earning high wages, literally building up our community, and learning skills that are transferable across the country.
For more information about the pre-apprenticeship program that helped me, check out https://oregontradeswomen.org.