Jennifer Bruss is a third-year sheet metal apprentice working on the Wisconsin Center expansion project. She found her way to construction by way of her father, a master carpenter.
“Just seeing what my dad did and seeing how much detail was in the finished work, I was always interested, and I’d always want to work with my dad. It intrigued me,” Bruss said.
She picked up her first tool at four years old.
“It was a hammer. It was in my parents’ garage. I would tell you I put about 200 nails in the wall, but in reality, it was probably like ten. But when I was four years old, it seemed like 100, 200.”
As a teenager, Bruss began working a temp electrical job and initially planned to join the electrical union, but her plans changed after meeting the president of the sheet metal union, who convinced her to change paths. Now a third-year sheet metal apprentice, Bruss says she continues to learn and grow in her field daily. She eventually plans to further her career in the construction industry and explore engineering.
“Having to look at blueprints and jobsite plans and learning that ductwork or sprinklers take more priority when it comes to a building’s layout makes a future in engineering more intriguing. I’m actually learning as I’m doing this route, too,” Bruss said.
Bruss says she wishes more women would pursue careers in construction. She says being a woman in construction is empowering.
“But at the same time, there are moments of just irritation. You can be viewed as someone that isn’t capable, but sometimes it’s like you need to prove yourself, but at the same time, you need to have a thick skin,” Bruss said. “Don’t let it be known that it’s male-dominated to scare you away. There’s so many opportunities where you can get an education out of it, a decent paying job and benefits.”
To make the construction industry more inclusive to women, Bruss says it starts with giving women in construction more credit for all they do and not judging a book by its cover.
“They can do it too. That’s why they’re here.”