In 1995, the Labor Education Advancement Program provided funding to facilitate the inclusion of women and minorities in the apprenticeable trades and occupations. This funding, also known as 'LEAP' funding, was concurrent to state resources being funneled to community organizations working with minorities and women in 'non-traditional' careers (those that include 25% or less of one gender). As part of the appropriation for the program in 1999, the Legislature required a report on the success of the program in placing and retaining participants. (Laws 1999, Chapter 223, Article 1, Section 11) The 2000 report noted, 'The Division of Apprenticeship shows an increase from 362 women and minorities in 1991 to 995 women and minorities in 2000 who are actively enrolled and participating in apprenticeship training.'
In the early 1990s, significant social momentum was forming around recruiting women and minorities into trade-related work. With significant starting salaries, a clear path for advancement and an excellent benefit package, these jobs were particularly appealing. Simultaneously, the trades workforce, which was primarily white older males, was starting to begin a wave of retirements, leaving a workforce shortage that their sons, nephews, and grandsons would not be able to fill. While women and minorities had participated in the trades in the past, their numbers were very few and their experiences in the trades were varied. Many experienced harassment on the job and had a difficult time sustaining their employment. LEAP programming not only addressed increasing the numbers of women and minorities in the trades, but also looked at conditions on the job. Other efforts to include women and minorities in traditionally male areas of work have also been addressed in the state. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has facilitated several programs to support women and minorities in obtaining 'highway heavy' contracts. Though there has been some progress in these areas, percentages of women and minorities in most trade-related fields remain under 8%.
Women in the trades: A study of apprenticeship in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN: Council on the Economic Status of Women, 1979. The report noted that of 7,521 active apprenticeships in Minnesota that year, 91- or 1.2% - were women. Interest in involving women in non-traditional jobs preceded the 1995 legislation by many years.
Report on Labor Education Advancement Program (LEAP) Performance. St. Paul, MN: Department of Labor and Industry, Division of Apprenticeship, 2000.