How Wolverine Is Helping Women Join the Skilled Trades Workforce

Wolverine, known for its performance work footwear, continues to roll up its sleeves in a move to get more people interested in jobs in the trades. Its Project Bootstrap, founded in 2014, celebrates and supports women and men who opt for careers in the skilled trades by informing the public about the opportunities these jobs offer. In 2018, the company formed Team Wolverine to support individuals who personify the drive, grit and work ethic of those in the trades to help close the skills gap.

This year, the brand named its newest Team Wolverine members, including Mike Betros of Tinton Falls, N.J., who took the skills he learned in automotive trade school and landed in a career in brewing; and Shane McConnell of Sommerville, Mass., who is a draft technician installing tap systems in restaurants and bars.

In helping to promote the face of women in the trades, it selected Michelle Gooding of Parma, Idaho, who left her desk job to return to her family’s hops farm, where she runs it with her two sisters.

Wolverine is also helping to support Generation Z’s entry into the trades by partnering with soon-to-open Torch & Crown brewery in New York to create Lace ‘m Up Lager, a beer to support the skilled trades, whereby Wolverine will match the collaboration’s beer sales with a donation of $50,000 to the mikeroweWORKS scholarship foundation. In addition, each Team Wolverine member received a check for $15,000 to put toward facilitating their success at work.

Here, Michelle Gooding shares her journey in the trades.

FN: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities today for women in the trades?

Michelle Gooding: “You face the general stigma that trades are male-dominated, such as in craft beer, agriculture and farming, the [latter being] my background. When you think about hanging with the boys and working hard, it can be a difficult thing to do. It takes people who have true grit and great character [who see] you can produce real things with your hands. There are some people who are artistic, some who have great skills on a computer, but some are missing their calling in the trades. I would encourage them to take a shop class to explore those avenues. It’s very fulfilling for me to work with my hands, be out in the fields and see things come to fruition over time.”

What was your early introduction to farming? 

MG: “When I was a little girl, I remember going out and shoveling corrugates [furrows] for water. I was thinking, ‘Why is Dad making me do this?’ It’s hot and I need a snack right now. As I grew up, I began to appreciate working with my hands and being outside. For me, those are things that I enjoy.”

Did you have any formal training in the field of agriculture?

MG: “Idaho Is a very agricultural-focused state. [Our farm] grows hops. I [got] my undergraduate degree in health science at Boise State University, then received my master’s degree from Colorado State University, where I studied soil and plant science. Throughout that time, I was involved with our farm.

In the current #MeToo movement, do you anticipate more women opting for jobs in the  trades?  

MG: “I think as you see the workforce continue to expand, you’re going to see [an] influx of women into the trades. At least I hope so. It’s [about] exposure. For my sisters and myself, it’s been handed down from my dad. He set the standard [saying], ‘I believe in you; go for it.’ “

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