ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) ---- "Most of my co-workers are male, but that gives me more power. I feel like I'm accomplishing something that not all women do," said Emerald Sanders, a first-year iron worker apprentice.
As the labor force evolves with the times, events like the 11th annual Northwestern Illinois Building Trades Career Expo Luncheon gives students the opportunity to get up close and personal with experts from various trades, like bricklaying and iron work.
"Most high school students don't really like lectures, so us getting lectured would be kind of boring, so I enjoy that they have all the hands on things, it's showing me that this could be something that I want to do in the future," said North Boone High School Mia Chorney.
Project First Rate Executive Director Jake Castanza says highlighting the value of women in craftsmanship is crucial for the future of the industry.
"It's not very smart to cut out half of your population, we need those ideas, we need those thoughts and women work equally as hard, or harder than men," said Castanza.
For Sanders, the fulfillment she gets from seeing the fruits of her labor makes the difficulty of her job all worth it.
"The physical strength that you feel when you are building buildings, putting things together and being able to look and see what you've done, it's so empowering," said Sanders.
When asked how she would describe her job...her answer was simple.
"We're building America," said Sanders.