Women in Construction program helps students build better futures

Women in Construction program helps students build better futures
Women in Construction students made repairs to the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center on Wednesday. (Source: Desirae Duncan)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A group of construction students will make much needed repairs at the Ohr O’Keefe Museum’s Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center.

Though their job is to build, the students are knocking down gender barriers. The team is fully made of women who have no problem trading heels for steel toed boots, or carrying tool belts instead of purses.

They’re students of the Women in Construction class. It’s an 8-week full-time program that trains women for careers in a trade typically reserved for men. The percentage of women who work in construction is below 10 percent.

“We realized through the years, that its been great for economic development in the area. Women want to work, women can work. You teach us just like you teach anybody else," said instructor and program coordinator Nicole Jordan.

“We’re actually doing something that a man can do, without hurting ourselves. Sister love," said Shaquana Johnson.

It’s a way to build a better future. Since the first class 10 years ago, the program has trained hundreds of women, helping them find well-paying jobs and become self-sufficient.

“We are usually in some women’s role, and we are learning how to do something different, and we can sustain a family by ourselves, instead of depending on someone else," said Iris Torres.

“Here I can come out, and make a living, a decent living. More income, be able to provide for my kids, go different places now, travel a little bit," said Tamika Hover.

“We so used to working those low paying jobs, and we will work them so long, and you have to work so much harder just to get where you want to be versus going for a job like this that’s going to provide more money,” said Dora Thomason.

Not everything built in this class involves a hammer and nails. “You see a lot of women who come through, and they construct themselves while they’re here, and not just learning a skill or a trade while they’re here," said Jordan.

It’s new construction that will be tough to demolish. “We are women. If you put your mind to it, you’re stronger than the average person. You can do anything like the men do. Get out and do it. Be you. Be different,” said Hover.

Women in Construction is currently recruiting for its next class. Interested applicants can attend an upcoming information session.

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