Trailblazers program participants graduate, find jobs in the trades
On the rainy evening of August 4 at the Carpenters Local training facility in South Burlington, five women graduated from VWW’s most recent Trailblazers: Women in Construction Trades program.
Persevering through 10 weeks of classes interrupted by a 12-week COVID-19 hiatus and distinguished by masks, plastic face shields, and lots of hand sanitizer and social distancing, they received instruction and hands-on experience in hand and power tools, math, construction drawings, electrical basics, plumbing, and communication and employability skills.
These determined women, all residents of Chittenden County, were guided by instructors Amy Judd (construction), Tammy Ellis (math), Amy James (electrical), and Monica Brager (plumbing/pipefitting).
Throughout the summer, participants helped build a deck, made their own sprinklers out of copper and pvc pipe, and met and networked with experienced tradeswomen. They spent a day at a Birdseye Construction worksite learning about the moving, gutting, and restoration of a brick home and three barns from the 1820s. The program also included a visit from Emily Adams with the Vermont Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit, who gave a practical talk about the laws governing sexual harassment in the workplace.
And the class ended with a final celebration and Job Fair where participants got to talk with eight local employers– SunCommon, PC Construction, Burlington Electric Department, Vermont Rural Water Association, IBEW, Carpenters Local 349/352, Fab-Tech, Birdseye Construction, and VTrans—about employment and job shadow opportunities.
One graduate has already begun work with a local construction company; VWW will continue to support the others as they decide what paths they want to pursue. We also support women who aren’t able to enroll in Trailblazers, and have placed two in jobs in the trades this month. The experience, according to the grads, was “amazing” and “empowering,” and increased their self-esteem by leaps and bounds, giving them the confidence to do whatever they choose going forward.
Participants who were unable because of COVID-related concerns to return to class when it resumed in June will be automatically enrolled in future Trailblazers cohorts.