Virginia Works Newsletter
December 2003

TODAY'S APPRENTICE
FEMALE APPRENTICES THRIVE IN NON-TRADITIONAL ROLES

Apprenticeship is a strong and productive part of the work force in Virginia. There are presently 11,443 apprentices on their way to receiving their journeymen's cards. Of that number, 1,449 are female apprentices competing in a myriad of predominately male dominated trades. It is a celebration to learn about the remarkable female apprentices in non-traditional roles.

Female apprentices have "followed their dream" by pursuing careers in generally male-dominated trades. Angela Williams, a plumbing apprentice, works for D. F. Williams Plumbing, Inc. Leaurdra Raye of Electric Masters is an electrician apprentice. Bambi Terrell of Accurate Consulting Services LLC and Tina Karas of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are each apprenticing as surveyors. Together, they present themselves as positive, goal-oriented and hard working individuals eager to succeed in their chosen trades. They are committed to four- to five-year programs of education and on-the-job training that will ultimately earn them their journeymen's cards.

So how did they get to where they are? Angela's and Bambi's fathers owned their respective plumbing and surveying businesses. "Going out on jobs with Dad" and "liking to build with my hands" motivated Angela. Bambi said she "liked being out in the woods" and "my father encouraged me." Like father like daughter. Leaurdra started her interest in the electric trade by attending a vocational/technical high school. She knew as a teenager that was the field for her. Tina began her path as a flagger for a temporary service. After holding various positions, the opportunity to start surveying arose, and there she found her future goal.

"I enjoy learning the technical parts at school," says Angela, especially since one of her instructors was a female Master Plumber. As an apprentice, Leaurdra enjoys "the attention in the field that my work is well done." "Hands-on training, running the instruments and being outdoors in different places," appeals to Tina. She also likes using the machete to cut the brush in order to set up her instruments. Bambi is pleased to be the only female. To her, learning in class and on-the-job is a great method that allows you to "benefit more." These are reasons the apprentices find their programs so enjoyable and beneficial each step of the way.

Surprisingly, none of these apprentices found any real obstacles to hold them back simply because they were women in a traditionally man's field. Bambi says, "People are used to women in the work force." Angela advises, "Don't be afraid to ask for help." Because she can't lift certain weights she doesn't feel inadequate - "just need a little help, simple as that." "If you're given the chance to show your skills, all will go well," Leaurdra says. Also, her high school background makes her more comfortable with her skills. Tina's experience has been positive in apprenticeship. "The men are cooperative and treat me as an equal part of the team." It's good to know that women have these choices in trades - welcome to the 2000's!

So where will these apprentices be in the future? Tina hopes to be a supervisor by doing her best and putting in her time. Bambi sees herself as a surveyor and perhaps receiving her Engineer License. Using her skills for volunteer projects to build houses of worship is also one of her goals. Leaurdra sets her sights on a Master's License and one day her own business. These are positive futures for bright, skillful women and a reminder that registered apprenticeship is a strong and productive part of the work force. Women are out there building solid and durable futures for themselves and their families.

Leaurdra's advice for women is, "Start early in high school - explore the fields" and "believe in the dream." Bambi says to be successful "You must be dedicated and make sure you want to pursue it." "Keep your head up - you can do what any man can do," states Angela. And Tina's thoughts for success are, "Do the best you can, have pride in your work and plan a five-year goal." These four positive women are a testament that success is out there waiting for each woman.

With examples like Angela, future Plumber, Leaurdra, future Electrician, and Bambi and Tina, future Surveyors, Virginia can be proud of its registered Apprenticeship Program and the effort and dedication these women inspire.

Visit our Web site for additional information about Virginia's registered Apprenticeship Program.

By Marylou Barr, Apprenticeship Field Representative, Northern Virginia Region


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