When Kristina started teaching construction pre-apprenticeship classes for West Virginia Women Work, she wasn’t sure she had what it took. She was only in her early 20s and fresh out of college.
Most of the women in her class were mothers, at least 10 years older. And most had so much riding on this class.
They were coming to WV Women Work, showing up to Kristina’s tuition-free classes, to learn how to rewire a house or lay shingles or run plumbing. They were learning basic skills in the world of
construction, hoping it would put them on more equal ground to others applying for jobs or registered professional apprenticeships in trades like plumbing, electrical and so on.
They were seeking a nontraditional career in construction because they needed more than what their current life could provide. They needed financial independence to be able to care for their families and, in many cases, to be able to move on with their lives.
One of Kristina’s first students came in with very high goals. She was a mom of two who hadn’t worked in years. And she wanted a divorce from her husband, but before she could do that, she needed to make sure she would be financially stable on her own.
After completing WV Women Work’s 11-week pre-apprenticeship training program, Kristina’s student returned as a speaker to talk with her next class.
Within six months of completing the program, “She had already finalized her divorce. She had her own apartment. She took the class outside to look at her new car,” Kristina said. “She was way better off at this point than I was.”
And that’s when she realized, Kristina said, what WV Women Work could do. West Virginia Women Work’s (WVWW) training programs located throughout the state are focused in the fields of construction and manufacturing, both considered nontraditional careers for women, because they can quickly help women transition into stable, wellpaying careers without going further into debt.
“It’s not about girl power or proving women can do what men can do,” Kristina said.
When WVWW was established in 2000, the wording of the mission statement didn’t say anything about nontraditional occupations. Its focus is solely dedicated to enabling women to become economically self-sufficient.
“We know that women are often times responsible for their dependents, for their children, for supporting their families,” Kristina said. “And so it’s important not just for the women now, but for the next generation and for our state and our country and our society in general that women are able to support their families.”
To help support women and families, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation has provided grant funding to support WVWW’s work in Charleston, which offers the Step Up for Women Construction PreApprenticeship program. The program helps women in the greater Kanawha Valley improve their construction skills to help improve their lives.