Being at this year’s World of Concrete show means everything to some of the toughest women in the industry.
Kilah Engelke, the chairwoman for the committee that oversees the Steel Edge Women, said World of Concrete is her organization’s Mecca.
“This is our place to rub elbows with all the big guns and be an actual part of the game,” Engelke said. “It’s really cool to be recognized as an important part of the industry.”
The Steel Edge Women of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association (OPCMIA) “are among the best, toughest, most skilled craftspeople anywhere in the world,” according to OPCMIA’s website.
Liz Nichols, who participated in the reality show “Tough As Nails,” which aired on CBS last year, joined the Steel Edge Women of the OPCMIA at their location in the Silver Lot.
“Tough As Nails,” created by Phil Keoghan, is described on CBS’ website as a “competition series that celebrates everyday Americans who roll up their sleeves and don’t think twice about working long hours.”
The show’s competitors took place in challenges that demonstrated their strength, endurance and mental toughness in challenges that mimic situations that take place at real-world job sites, according to the show’s website.
Nichols was the sixth contestant to exit the show’s competition. There were 12 competitors in total.
“I wish I could have gone farther, I’m a competitive person,” she said. “But I’m happy. It was such a cool experience. Just being there was amazing. It was like one in a million, just to be chosen.”
Nichols, who is from Portland, OR, said joining the OPCMIA changed her life.
“It gave me a living wage job,” she said. “I went to college because I thought I was supposed to go to college, got an English degree, saddled myself with debt, and then sort of just kept spiraling deeper into debt.”
In her late 20’s she told herself that she wanted to own a home someday and needed to make a change.
“It was getting into the apprentice program is what really gave me that living wage, gave me the benefits I was looking for and set me up to be more comfortable and successful in life.”
This year, Nichols is attending her first World of Concrete show.
She said being at World of Concrete with a group of women has been exciting.
“Our mixed truck drive just happened to be a woman too, coincidentally, and we all cheered when she stepped out of the truck,” she said. “It’s just really exciting and invigorating.”