By Conor McCue

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Transportation & Construction GIRL Day returned for the fourth time in five years after the pandemic put it on pause in 2020. The annual event, which is free to attend for girls, is put on by the HOYA Foundation.

It’s geared toward educating young women about careers in the male-dominated construction and transportation industries.

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(credit: CBS)

Through the trial and error of flying a drone for the first time, Lilly Gonzales opened her eyes to new possibilities at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds Tuesday.

“I almost got one stuck in a tree!” she exclaimed.

Other firsts for the 9 year old included welding and making concrete. Never had her hopes of becoming an electrician or engineer seemed so attainable.

“I just like taking things apart and rebuilding creative things, especially in Minecraft. It’s like my favorite game,” Gonzales said.

“This kind of shows me that I can do anything.”

Gonzales was one of hundreds of girls and young women who attended Transportation & Construction GIRL Day. The event is meant to show young women, ages 8 to 23, who’ve never considered a career in the transportation and construction industry a possibility.

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“Last year, the construction and transportation industry was an essential industry, so we kept working, and we still need more employees,” said Keller Hayes, Director of Transportation & Construction GIRL.

(credit: CBS)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up only 10.9 percent employees in the construction industry in 2020, an increase from 2016, when the figure was 8%.

Hayes says the opportunities are aplenty for women and the jobs can be lucrative. Part of her organization’s mission is to relay that message to a younger audience.

“There’s so many opportunities and they get paid well,” Hayes said. “In the construction industry, you get 99 cents on the dollar for comparable work to men, in comparison to 82 cents on the dollar.”

On Tuesday, employers hosted dozens of hands-on exhibits in the hopes of creating a lasting spark for attendees. The next challenge will be to nurture it so more new faces pursue a career down the road.

“Girls can do anything, even when it’s hard,” said Gonzales.

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“We want you in this industry, how can we help support you in getting you into this industry,” Hayes said.

Conor McCue