“How many Wilmas do we have?” Shelli Yoder asks during a tour of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters training center in Greenwood.
The answer from Todd Pancake, who’s just finished telling Yoder about Wilma, a 52-year-old woman who inherited a construction company and came to the center to learn the inner workings of the business, comes quickly: “Not enough.”
Pancake tells Yoder that the carpentry trade is made up of about 3 percent women, and it isn’t the only craft in that situation.
Yoder has a follow-up question: “How do we change that?”
It’s a question that typifies one of Yoder’s main focuses in the Democrat’s campaign for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District seat: Increasing the workforce and creating jobs with wages people can live on.
She has lots of questions about carpentry, from current wages to factors in increasing production to challenges in bidding on projects, all with a goal of finding out how she could help if she’s elected.
Yoder has said before that she would endorse career centers that “give kids options to have options” for their careers and that help them learn about apprenticeships.
“We just need to do a better job of getting the word out,” she tells Pancake.
During her tour of what Pancake said is his “Taj Mahal of training centers,” Yoder learns how she could help give American companies with certified workers a fair shot in bidding on government contracts, sees the importance of research and development, and is told about the Helmets to Hardhats program, which helps members of the National Guard, veterans and returning service members connect with employment opportunities in the construction industry.