Karen Minkowski loves her job. She has worked in construction for 19 years and regularly operates heavy equipment. “My favorite piece of equipment to use is a rough terrain forklift.”

Karen readily admits her job isn’t easy.

You have to get dirty, work some long hours, and have a tough skin and a sense of humor to survive in this business.


As a single mom with an infant daughter and five-year-old son, Karen was looking for a good career—not just a job—in order to support her family. She was bartending and considering going to college for a teaching degree when a friend mentioned that the Local 18 International Union of Operating Engineers was looking for operators.

Because women were not traditionally working as operators, early on Karen felt she had to prove herself each time she walked onto a construction site. “Women stood out and people really watched our every move.”

In addition to loving what she does, Karen enjoys the frequent change that comes with working in construction.

“With the many job changes, everything is constantly fresh and different. Each job brings a new boss and new crew. I meet lots of interesting people and have made many great friends over the years.”

An added bonus of her work is being an inspiration and mentor to her son, who is now a full-time boilermaker. “He was always wearing my ‘hard working hat’ and wanting to go to work with me.”