Journeywoman Julia Padilla Discusses Opportunities, Growth

Women now comprise more than 10% of the workforce in construction and the future looks promising as the industry is expected to see 12% employment growth by 2026. On the newest episode of The Rebuild SoCal Zone  podcast, host Carol Church begins the first in a series focusing on Women in the Construction Industry.

She talks with Julia Padilla, journeywoman with Labor Union Local 89, who is currently working on The North Coast Corridor (NCC) Program, a more than $250 million project with three primary focus areas: The Interstate 5 (I-5) Express lanes Project, coastal rail and transit enhancements, and environmental protection and coastal access improvements. We initially met Padilla when The Rebuild SoCal Partnership produced a video highlighting this infrastructure project.

Listeners not only learn what’s going into this important project aimed at enhancing the quality of life for residents in the area, but Padilla shares the story of her own journey into a career that she says she wakes up and wonders, “Is this really what I want to do?” And every day her answer is “Absolutely!”

Opportunities abound

Padilla came into construction as a second act. Where our last podcast guest Bradley Bearden started his career at just 17 years of age, Padilla had already worked 17 years in management at Albertson’s when she sought a change in her life. As the granddaughter of farmers who taught her the meaning of a hard day’s work and her father who also worked Local 89, she wanted to take on the challenge at age 37 and headed to bootcamp.

It was 115 degrees on the worksite when she began training to “give you touch and feel of what you’re exposed to.” Not only did she learn ways to handle materials correctly, she became acutely aware of ways to keep herself and coworkers safe. “It’s a dangerous field,” she notes, “any little wrong step could cause a huge impact on someone’s whole family life.” Padilla then took on more of a watch crew role to keep an extra eye on safety measures.

Going in, she admits, “I chose to join a field that was going to challenge me mentally and physically. And emotionally, absolutely.” And while it’s been great for her personal growth, working on the NCC, she’s learned what it’s like to be part of a team, “We all come together despite all our differences of learning to come up with a solution in order for this process to continue and succeed.”

Banner ad 728x90 1

Growing San Diego

As a life-long resident of the San Diego area, Padilla knows how important the NCC is to the region. “The bicyclists, the pedestrians, the commuters, they’re giving them all equal safety . . . to enjoy this area,” she says. But as anyone in construction knows, it’s not always constant accolades from the community when the project is on-going. Padilla says her role in traffic control taught her how to develop patience because the public is often frustrated. “People are just focused on getting from one place to another, but being a part of the redevelopment of [this roadway], it’s like you don’t understand how much we wanted to build this for everybody to commute through.”

When complete, the NCC project will include the replacement of highway and railroad bridges over lagoons, restoration of the San Elijo Lagoon, and 14 miles of highway widening. All done with a priority on both sustainability and public safety.

Women at work

When she began, Padilla encountered other women on the job who mentored her, but she was well aware of the challenges she’d face coming into the male-dominated field and took them on. “I may look different, I may be small, and I’m a female . . . but I’m here, fully willing to learn and be a part of this team.”

Since starting out four years ago she’s worked in a variety of roles with carpenters, concrete masons, welders and engineers. What she likes about this career is the fact that there are a lot of infrastructure opportunities out there. “That’s my excitement,” she says, “knowing that I can move around and get a taste of all of San Diego and see that redevelopment.”

Padilla sees herself growing in the career and is amazed at where she’s at, “I never imagined myself being in construction and enjoying it as much as I do,” she recently told her supervisor, “They say that’s where the pot of gold is. When you get into something not knowing anything [about it] but you just keep on going. Sure enough, every day pays off.”

Listen and learn more

Click to listen now on iTunes or Spotify and hear the full conversation with Julia Padilla, journeywoman with Labor Union Local 89. Plus, see her on the NCC Project video.

Find past episodes of The Rebuild SoCal Zone podcast.

Stay on top of Southern California infrastructure. Rebuild SoCal Partnership will keep you informed with two new podcast episodes a month! So that you don’t miss them, sign up now to get alerted every time a new episode drops.