(CBS News) BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Just three percent of women work in construction, but now there's an unprecedented opportunity to get more of them into the trade. The average construction worker is in his 40s and 50s and getting closer to retirement.
"Seventy-five percent of owners say they face labor shortages," says Tiffany Bluemle, who runs Vermont Works for Women, which trains girls and women in nontraditional trades. "So why would you not deliberately recruit 50 percent of the population for the jobs that you have?"
Amy Judd, a college graduate, picked up a hammer 15 years ago when she could not find a job teaching.
"It had never occurred to me that I would want to be a carpenter," Judd says. "It took me 80 swings to finally actually hit the nail, but when I did, that was my light bulb moment."
The economy is expected to add nearly 200,000 carpenters by 2020.
"I don’t think it's made clear for women in high
school to say, 'Hey, this is an option for you,'" says Sylas Demello, an electrician
apprentice. "You can go into the trades. You don't have to go to college. You can be an electrician, you can be a carpenter, you can be a mason. You can do all this kind of stuff."
Last year, the Labor Department allocated close to $2 million in grants for women in "nontraditional" occupations like construction.
"It's not always necessarily wearing a tool belt, carrying heavy things," Judd says. "If you like just being creative, or designing things, or problem solving, you can make a really good livable wage."
The average wage for someone working in construction is $26 an hour. Amy Judd now has her own business. Half of her eight employees are women.