Some still consider the skilled trades to be a nontraditional career path for women, but women actually have a long history of working in them. When U.S. participation in World War II created a labor gap back at home, many women did their patriotic duty and stepped out of traditional homemaker roles to take jobs in factories, the munitions industry, and the aircraft industry. In fact, according to History.com, in 1943, female workers made up 65 percent of the total workforce in the U.S. aircraft industry alone!

Today, women are once again being encouraged to enter the skilled trades because of booming demand. CNBC reports that a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small businesses were experiencing a shortage of skilled labor: 44 percent of small businesses could not find qualified applicants to fill their empty positions in July 2015. An infographic created by Weldingschool.com confirms that the need for electricians, HVAC service technicians, and welders is on the rise. That need is providing openings for women to enter careers where they could find support, competitive wages, and the opportunity to stretch their entrepreneurial wings.

It’s no longer patriotic duty that drives women to explore careers in the skilled trades; the opportunity to earn a six-figure salary without a four-year college degree is encouraging more women to reconsider their long-term career goals. Unfortunately, pay is generally lower in female-dominated careers, even those that require higher education. The education required for a job in the skilled trades is often more affordable and faster than a college degree, which means tradespeople can start their careers sooner and with less debt. Financial aid is available for women specializing in skilled trades as well.

Another advantage is that over half of the workers in trade careers are 45 or older. Women who have spent the first half of their lives caring for families or working unskilled, part-time jobs could find a home in the trades both on the job and in professional organizations that offer support to tradeswomen across the country.

Our country needs more skilled workers. Just like the women who stepped up to fill the gap during World War II, women today are finding that a career in the skilled trades can be satisfying, creative, well paying, and filled with opportunity.

Learn more about women in the skilled trades in the infographic below.

women skilled trades