Natalie Kofsky, daughter of Haskell Senior Process Engineer Candice Kofsky, is pictured with Girls Build Executive Director Katie Hughes.

July 28, 2022

Girls Build Construction Camp: It’s Empowerment with Power Tools

Haskell's Candice Kofsky learned of the nonprofit on Discovery's 'Dirty Jobs,' and has used it to share her love of construction with her daughter, Natalie.

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Growing up, Candice Kofsky spent quite a few weekends in the garage building do-it-yourself projects with her dad.

Her contribution started at a young age with simple tasks, such as drilling holes in two-by-fours, and progressed to the point that she helped him build the second floor of their home. It fostered a love for building that led her to build homes in small towns for the less fortunate as a young adult.

Today, Candice Kofsky is a Senior Process Engineer in Haskell’s Livermore, California, office, and she has done her best to empower her own 10-year-old daughter, Natalie, the same way her dad supported her.

“I was listening to Mike Rowe, the star of the TV show, ‘Dirty Jobs,’ and he was doing a series called ‘Returning the Favor,’ when he identified an organization called Girls Build, a construction camp for girls,” Candice said. “After watching the episode, I looked them up and saw that they had camps relatively close to where we live and that there are only four or five organizations like them across the country. I asked Natalie if she was interested. She was hesitant because she’s shy, but she was pretty excited.”

Natalie using her favorite tool, a chop saw.

Based in Portland, Oregon, Girls Build is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire curiosity and confidence through the world of building. It offers programming teaching the basics of carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, and painting for girls ages 8 to 15.

This summer marked Natalie’s second at the camp in Talent, Oregon, where she got to create a new project every day for a week. Last year, she did metal-bending, soldering and made a wagon. This year, she made a birdhouse, a crate, stools, and a skateboard. She said that her favorite tool is the chop saw and that her favorite part of the week was decorating the skateboard with paint pens and vacuum sealing the boards.

“We start by eating breakfast and playing some games, and then we get into our groups and start making our projects,” Natalie said. “We always go over the safety rules, and then we start getting our supplies that we need for the project. We make something new every day, but the skateboard was a weeklong project. On Wednesday we did a group project. Then we got to do a mini golf course and built a small firehouse that they use at fire fighter camp for them to aim the hose.”

Watching Natalie grow more confident in herself and in her skills has meant a lot to her mom.

“When we do small projects around the house, she’ll help me measure, and I’ll explain to her what we’re measuring and where we’re going to cut,” Candice said. “She recently got a picture that she wanted to hang, and with a little help from me, she hung it all by herself. She’s smiling right now as I tell the story again. To see the smile on her face and how excited she was to accomplish that on her own was pretty cool.”

Natalie sands her skateboard deck.

Natalie recalled that she was a bit sheepish as she began her first year at camp but that by the end of the week, she was already talking about returning. She hopes to keep attending to see the friends she’s made and to build on her skills.

Although her current career plan is to open a side-by-side gym and restaurant with her little brother, Eli, Natalie hasn’t ruled out a career in engineering or construction. Candice said she hoped the camp would give Natalie exposure to the fields, something she said was all too rare for young girls.

“I want to show her all of these opportunities that are out there for her,” Candice said. “My husband and I always involve her in any decisions about things she wants to do, and we want her to understand what a choice means. As much as I would love for her to follow in my footsteps, maybe she doesn’t want to be an engineer. Maybe she really enjoys the construction stuff and wants to be a foreman. I want Natalie to know that she doesn’t have to have a traditionally female career. It’s about creating opportunities.”

Haskell is hiring! Expanding diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our mission. Explore the many positions available in architecture, engineering, construction and a range of supporting fields.

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,000 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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