Lauren’s Got This

Lauren and her son.

The moment Lorie read an email from Lauren a few weeks ago, she just had to learn more.

“I need to renew my CPR certification. I have some exciting news too! I am a foreman 1 now! As of 2 weeks ago.” – Lauren

Lorie is our Highway Construction Skills Training (HCST) Coordinator for Southwest Wisconsin, and Lauren graduated from the course nearly six years ago. While Lorie keeps up with her graduates, there was still a lot to learn about everything Lauren had seen and experienced during her career in construction since they last talked.

Lauren had been dreaming about becoming a construction worker her whole life. Every time she drove past a job site, she wanted to help out and learn everything she could about it. But people always told her that construction wasn’t for women. It wasn’t until she learned about HCST that she finally worked up the courage to seriously consider it her calling.

In the past, Lauren was told that she wouldn’t be able to find a job. She was told that the timing was bad and she shouldn’t leave the healthcare job she already had. She was told that she’d never be able to make enough money as a woman in construction.

Fast forward six years, and Lauren is glad she listened to her instinct.

Soon after graduating from the six-week HCST course, she was offered a job at J.P. Cullen, and she never looked back. “I am employed with a fantastic company and have amazing co-workers,” she reported after starting the job. She added that “I am the only woman on the sites I’ve been to so far but have never been looked at as any different than the men I work with. Now I have a job that I can say I am proud to be part of!”

Her passion and strong work ethic have been making a positive impression on many people in the company ever since. One day, a superintendent appeared at the work site and told her that he felt she had dropped between the cracks and had missed out being made a foreman sooner. He said he was changing that, that day.

That’s how Lauren learned she was becoming a foreman.

Lauren is happy for the recognition, stating that “For a long time, I was the only laborer on a few sites. When they hired a couple of more laborers, I was told that I needed to instruct these new laborers on the duties at that site. Honestly, I never thought about being a foreman, but I got good at what I did on the job.” That short conversation with the superintendent changed Lauren’s ideas, though. She was asked how far she wanted to go at Cullen. “I want to go all the way,” she said. “I want to go as far as I can… even superintendent.”

“I think I changed some perceptions on what a woman could do in construction,” Lauren tells us. “I have been lucky; the guys I’ve worked with have all been very supportive. I know that isn’t always the case for women. Even so, the guys see that I am quite capable. I was working with a guy, breaking up a concrete floor. I was lifting and moving the concrete chunks before the guy was ready. The guy was shocked. He said he thought he’d have to help me to move them. I said, ‘Nah, I got this.’”

As a foreman, Lauren will receive extra training to equip her for management. “Cullen uses a leadership training through a structured system called Cullen College, and I’ll get a computer to use on the site. Also, there will be an increase in pay, along with paid holidays and vacation pay, too. It’s pretty nice. I’ll be working as a foreman when Cullen starts the Camp Randall project. I’ll have my crew and be leading them on the job. It’s all pretty exciting.”

Lauren added that “I used to doubt myself a lot! I always felt that family and friends knew what was best for me….and they were right, that I couldn’t really work in construction. Not anymore.”

Even her son added, “My mom definitely deserves it. She has worked non-stop for six years, always going, never being lazy or giving up. She’s driven. I have watched her confidence increase over the years, and not just for work. She’s gained confidence in other things she does, too, and realized there are other things she can or wants to do. I’m proud of her, and proud of her being in this industry.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to be bold and step out to do what you need to do — especially when others put doubt in your mind,” says Lorie. “Her perseverance will propel Lauren in this industry.”

Congratulations, Lauren! You’re paving the way for women in construction, everywhere!

Want a great paying career in construction? Discover how our Highway Construction Skills Training (HCST program can set you up for success.