A few years ago, Lakeisha Barnes-Clarke was unemployed and participating in several programs at Hartford’s Career Center when she saw a flyer for Capital Workforce Partners’ Jobs Funnel program, “Women Can Weld.” After some preparation including basic math refreshers, she started training. Lakeisha had never welded before but realized quickly it was something she really enjoyed. After training with the Ironworkers Local 15, Lakeisha joined the Union and started working a month later. Since then, Lakeisha has helped to build the CT Fastrak busway, a bridge in Chicopee, Massachusetts, Hartford’s Yard Goats Stadium, and is currently working on building the UCONN campus downtown Hartford. And she is just getting started.
In Hartford County and across Connecticut, women and minorities are underrepresented in the construction industry: 85.5 percent of workers are white and 88.3 percent men. As someone who challenged the odds, Lakeisha has words of advice for other women thinking about getting into the field.
“You don’t need to be rugged and manly to do this work. I am a proof of that,” Barnes-Clarke said. “While these jobs aren’t easy and are physically challenging, they are very rewarding. You get to see the end product of your work. When I walk down the street and I point out to people what I have helped to build, they are inspired.”
Now more women will have the opportunity to pursue a career in the construction trades, thanks to a three-year, $296,714 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to support the Jobs Funnel Women in Construction and Licensed Trades Training and Placement Project run by Capital Workforce Partners.
“We have seen great camaraderie and career success with the women who participate in trades-related training programs, and are thankful to the Foundation for enabling the Jobs Funnel to provide more of these opportunities to empower more women with expertise in construction,” said Thomas Phillips, President and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners.
The Jobs Funnel has been able to increase participation in the construction trades for workers of color and other underserved residents, predominantly from Hartford, including black, Latino, and homeless individuals, as well as job seekers with a criminal record or other barriers to employment. This new project is designed to increase direct recruitment, training and support, job placement and retention by working closely with the construction trades to institutionalize practices to support women and other underserved populations.
“Capital Workforce Partners’ Jobs Funnel has built a track record of successfully supporting underserved populations in securing and retaining jobs in the construction trades with increased earnings,” said Judy McBride, senior program officer at the Hartford Foundation for Pubic Giving. “This project will build on that work and capitalize on expected industry growth by expanding the number of women served and training options in the general construction trades, and establishing licensed trades training for women and other underserved populations. Expanding this viable career pathway supports the Hartford Foundation’s strategic priority of family economic stability.”
The project builds on the Women Can Weld pilot by increasing the number of women served and expanding training options in the General Construction Trades from one to five areas. The new Licensed Construction Trades program targeting women and other underserved populations will be established, making pre-apprenticeship training and job placement available to support career pathways as electricians, plumbers, elevator construction, and operating engineers. Participant recruitment will focus on Hartford, including people of color in the North Hartford and Frog Hollow communities.
Recruitment will be enhanced through participation at A.I. Prince Technical High School job fairs to more effectively reach high school seniors. The project will engage the building trades in developing and implementing business practices to support women and others, including continued use of the Jobs Funnel as a referral source in labor agreements. The grant will also support establishing a Jobs Funnel Leadership Network of men and women who have completed Jobs Funnel programs to serve as speakers and mentors to expand recruitment and participation.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrated ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of more than $630 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.