A new nonprofit organization in Greenville hopes to attract women into skilled trades.

The new organization is named Nine Point Nine. The name is derived from the statistic that only 9.9% of those working in trades were women.

Nine Point Nine hopes that number never drops below that mark again and intends to be a driving force in closing the gender gap and bring women into the field. The organization says women entering skilled trades will benefit area employers and the community.

Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average income for those in carpentry, electrical and plumbing had an average income between $54,200 to $61,550. Nine Point Nine says more traditional occupations for women who do not have four-year degrees are typically much lower than that range. They believe women entering trades have the opportunity to become financially independent.

Entering the skilled trades workforce does require training and the nonprofit plans to work with the Home Builder's Institute for career education. HBI's PACT pre-apprenticeship program gives students hands-on training and residential construction-focused skills. Nine Point Nine plans to have their first cohort of students begin the 3-month full-time program with a certificate assessment in August 2022.

The organization says they will be providing support to women that enter the program, whether it's through free access, guidance through programs for childcare or transportation guidance. They have identified grants and scholarships that will support free access to the training.

More people entering the skilled trades workforce would help out Mercer and Lawrence counties as the area has more than 700 skilled trade positions that need to be filled.

“Employers in our region have had issues filling skilled trade positions for several years,” says Colleen Chamberlain, Site Administrator at PA CareerLink Lawrence County.  “For many years, youth were told to go to college and not go into a career working with their hands, so we saw a significant decrease in those entering the skilled trades.  Then the pandemic hit, and it has pushed many of our older skilled trades workers to retire early, exacerbating the situation.  Right now, Lawrence and Mercer County employers have a combined need to fill over 700 skilled trade positions, including construction, truck drivers, machine operators, and maintenance technicians – positions that easily lend themselves to apprenticeships.”

Nine Point Nine hopes to change the stigma that skilled trades are jobs for men.

"Women are now recognized as having physical strength and stamina. Women have skills and attributes in general that may differ from men, such as a smaller stature or smaller hands to navigate small spaces or complete detail work not as well suited for some men, along with often having a different design perspective. Women bring diversity and diversity is a proven asset in driving profitability and a key component in solving the construction industry's labor shortage," said Nine Point Nine founder Janet Earle.

Nine Point Nine is hosting its first fundraiser this weekend at Riverchapel Financial at 404 S. Main Street in Greenville. The event features a pop-up clothing boutique by No Bull Boutique of Mt. Vernon, a distributor of LuLaRoe clothing. The event will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.