Melissa Builds Her Future

In Today’s Construction Industry, women make up 10.9% of all workers at a construction site. And while more women are joining the field, there’s still along way to go before they will be equally represented. Solid union-wages are a big draw to this career field but being the only woman on a 100-person crew sometimes comes with its own set of challenges.

Here is the story of Melissa, a resilient woman and her journey through the male dominated industry of Construction.

Melissa was a struggling single mom of three with one on the way, and wanted to prove to her kids that you can do anything you put your mind to. While raising her children, Melissa worked two jobs just to make ends meet. She was often working as a factory worker by day and a waitress by night. When her kids were fully grown and out of the house, Melissa thought it was the right time to make some changes. She decided to go back to school to be a Correctional Officer, but quickly found out that it wasn’t the career for her. During her career search, Melissa was approached by a familiar face and asked if she was interested in getting into the Construction industry. Not fully knowing what this career change entailed, she happily accepted the challenge and this is where her journey began.

To The Drawing Board

As Melissa found her way to our office, she was eager to apply to the TrANS (Transportation Alliance for New Solutions) class. After enrolling, she got to work on developing the skills she needed to start a successful career in construction. Her TrANS coordinator connected her to a few classes that were offered by her union.

She took concrete classes, first aide classes, blue printing reading classes and is certified in Flagger Safety. She completed welding courses and also earned her CDL. All of these new-found skills put Melissa at the top of the list for major construction jobs, like the I-90 Expansion Project in Madison and Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project in Minnesota. The best part was that most of her schooling costs were covered! Melissa was hitting the pavement and ready to work.

Seasonal Adjustments

At first, the transition to the working crew life was difficult. Melissa questioned herself many times for taking on such a radical life change. She didn’t fully understand the small nuances that came with this new career and had to adjust to the seasonal work schedule. But after learning the ropes and having faith in her adaptability skills, Melissa adjusted to her new working life and moved accordingly because “that’s just what we do in the construction world.”

Though it came with its fair share of challenges, she realized that this new career was a huge step up from what she was doing before. She now has a better schedule, is making a lot more money, and gets to travel more, especially to places she’s never had the chance to see before. She is proud of the work she does and knows that her work is now a piece of history that will last forever. She can pass an old project on the highway and say, “yeah. I DID that.”

A Little Help from Her Friends

One of Melissa’s claims to success was her mentorships. From her first job, Melissa found a role model in her new friend Ashley. Ashley would give her tips on how to act on the job site, what to look out for, and how to hold yourself on the job. She also made friends with another coworker, Marisol, who was also new and just as eager to get to work. Marisol was always jumping right in and shouting, “grab that shovel!” Being outnumbered by men 10 to 1 on a jobsite, Melissa kept her girls close. Together, they watched out for each other from jobsite to jobsite, helping out when needed and always having each other’s backs. This tough work led to lifelong friendships and a strong female solidarity that only continues to grow.

As Melissa pushes forward with her construction career, she hopes to inspire other women to join in the construction industry, too. She continues to leave a legacy of “women empowering women in construction” and hopes to one day be a superintendent of her own crew. For the new and seasoned women who are out currently out working jobsites, Melissa has some noteworthy advice:  “Understand your environment, Keep good people around you, Always think at least 3 steps ahead, and Be a fiercely strong advocate for yourself.”

Congratulations, Melissa! You are a true role model and inspire us all!

Looking to get to a challenging yet rewarding industry, like Melissa? Apply for our TrANS class to get started!