I Build America – Ohio is dedicated to celebrating the women of construction. Women are a vital part of our industry, and there are female leaders at all levels of construction work. From foreman to company owners and executives, construction wouldn’t be the industry it is without its female employees. Join us and our partners in celebrating the success of women within your own company and across the nation during National Women in Construction Week 2023.
Company: The Gerken Companies
Title/Position: Asphalt Lab Technician (Former Heavy Equipment Operator)
Years in Construction: 32 years
What was your path to a career in construction?
I started in 1991 in the Operating Engineers Apprenticeship Program. My operating career started with Churchill Asphalt out of Lima Ohio where I worked the ’91 &’92. I worked at the BP refinery in the winter of ‘91/’92 with ServTech pulling bundles. In the fall of 1992 I was called out to a job for Gerken Paving out of Napoleon Ohio where I continued to operate equipment through 2009. I then transitioned into the asphalt lab where I remain today. I definitely found my “love” in the asphalt industry!
What do you like most about working in construction?
I like the variety in the work duties and job sites. This job has also been a great source of income to support my family.
Have you seen a change in the opportunities for women in construction over the course of your career?
Most definitely! The biggest change being “acceptance” by the industry. Also “women” believing in themselves enough to step into a physically and sometimes mentally demanding career.
What would you like to see for the future of women in construction?
I would hope to see “continued acceptance” not just in the status as an employee but in fair treatment and wages. I do believe this is being implemented well!
If you were to give young women (high schoolers) advice about beginning a career in construction, what would you say?
Construction has many opportunities for a life long career. There are many apprenticeship programs where you can “earn as you learn” or you can just dive into the career of your choice! The benefits go beyond “a steady paycheck”. It is chance to continue your education as you learn how to adapt to the many different scenarios that you will experience daily. There’s room for growth within the industry and yourself as you challenge yourself to be the best version of “YOU”!
Construction is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining at times but no career is different in that aspect. The hours and work week can be longer than you choose but the career is very rewarding. Finding something you “love” to do makes your work less of a “job” and more of career.
Let’s be honest, College is not for everyone. That statement comes from experience. I walked out of college with a degree in Early Childhood Education right into the Operating Engineer Apprenticeship Program. I have had no regrets in doing so.
The most rewarding part of my career has not just been the people but also the company that I have worked with for the past 30 years.
**A job is just something for today, a career is for a lifetime!**