Trapper Creek Job Corps graduate is breaking the mold in a blue-collar trade

From left, United Brotherhood of Carpenters National Job Corps Training Fund carpentry instructor Dan Johnson, BOOT Award Honoree Summer Gibson, UBC-NJCTF field coordinator Paul Hanson, and UBC-NJCTF carpentry instructor Dave Brothers celebrate Gibson’s BOOT Award at Trapper Creek Job Corps on December 17, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Carrie Wolfe.

MONTANA – Surpassing entrants from 123 Job Corps Centers nationwide, journeyman carpenter Summer Gibson was honored with the Better Occupational Opportunities for Tradeswomen Award on December 17, 2018, at Trapper Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. 

“You go girl,” U.S. Department of Labor Job Corps National Director Lenita Jacobs-Simmons repeatedly exclaimed as she presented Gibson with the BOOT Award via a virtual ceremony.

In addition to a customized award, Gibson also received a $500 cash award and a professional carpentry tool kit presented to her by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The BOOT Award was established to recognize successful female Job Corps students and graduates seeking careers in trades, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Construction and Transportation, which traditionally are not pursued by women.  

Gibson enrolled in Trapper Creek’s union carpentry program in August of 2016 and her drive and leadership skills were quickly evident. She was not only appointed as the carpentry program trade chief, but also elected as a dormitory chief and president of the Student Government Association. Gibson set an example to fellow students with her positive attitude, hard work in academics and the honing of her craft.

“It wasn’t just her excellence in trade that made Summer stand out,” stated Trapper Creek Job Corps Center Director Jesse Casterson. “Everything Summer did was with excellence and she did not accept anything but the best of herself and of others.”

Gibson graduated in September 2017. In a search for an apprentice carpenter to work on a bridge contract, Sletten Construction recognized Gibson’s talents and hired her at a starting wage of $17.96 per hour with full union benefits.

Bridge carpentry and commercial construction carpentry is physically demanding work. After six months on the job, Sletten rewarded Gibson’s hard work and raised her salary to $22.99 per hour. Her quick promotion demonstrates that Gibson is not only breaking the norm in the construction industry, but crushing it.

Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that the wages of construction workers substantially exceed those in common “female” occupations. More and more, young women like Gibson are reaping not only the economic advantages of blue-collar trades, but also the career satisfaction of working with tools and being able to say, “I built that.”

As a female apprentice Gibson encounters individuals who don’t not want her to succeed. She has to prove herself time and time again, on every different jobsite and with every different crew until her reputation is established.

Gibson now wants to pave the way for more female students and empower women to pursue their goals beyond gender-based boundaries. Gibson is making it easier for women to not only walk in her footsteps but establish trails of their own.

BOOT Award recipient and Trapper Creek Job Corps graduate Summer Gibson visits the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America sign prominently displayed in the carpentry trade shop on December 17, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Carrie Wolfe.