A first of its kind pilot program at Goodwill is breaking the stigma of women in construction, while addressing the demand for skilled workers in the industry. SHENEW, a nickname given by its participants, is the first female cohort of the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Workforce (RENEW) Training Program delivered at the Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center in partnership with the City of Charlotte.
“It’s changed my life,” said participant Tara Edwards while speaking of the impact the program has had on her.
Tara has always had a desire to work in construction but never saw women represented in the industry. According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women make up about 10 percent of the construction industry in America. This program aims to increase that number, especially locally.
The RENEW program is a partnership launched by the city of Charlotte, which leverages CARES Act funding to provide life-changing career opportunities for the people in our community affected by COVID-19. Every participant is paid $15 an hour to take part in the 16-week training course. They are taught the fundamentals of construction through an introductory course, before learning advanced training in HVAC and electrical trades.
Through partnership with the city and local employers, Goodwill is also able to connect participants to paid apprenticeships and job opportunities with great companies. The courses are designed to set students up for successful careers, in one of the fastest-growing industries in the state. With the average construction salary in Charlotte at more than $60,000 – Goodwill graduates are able to access great jobs with benefits and growth potential.
The program has already proven to be a success for Meonda Singleton, who was recently hired as the Electrical Office Manager for Yes Real Estate Construction Group, just halfway through the program. “It feels amazing,” she exclaimed. Meonda has wanted this for a long time and admits she’s previously tried, at least twice, to enroll in a Goodwill program, but life events interfered with her participating. Now she is working a full-time job, taking this course, and balancing her personal life. For some, it may seem like a lot, but Meonda says, “I’m committed to this, and this is something I want so bad.”
Tara Edwards also works a full-time job, but says Goodwill does an excellent job of offering flexible class times, after business hours, and personalized support – from both instructors and career navigators, as well as her peers.
“We definitely complement each other, and we make sure even outside of class, we stay connected with each other,” Tara said.
Meonda echoed her sentiments, adding, “It’s like I gained a whole other family.” The women have become so close, Meonda even made them t-shirts with SHE-NEW written on them to remind them of how this class brought them together.
Both women are grateful for the program and friendship, but most importantly, that the class is offered to them free of charge. Goodwill training courses are funded through donations and purchases made by shoppers in retail stores.
“I feel like I am making a mark in history. To be an African American woman in a diverse class, the first cohort of all women, it makes me feel like an icon of the world,” Meonda said.
The cohort began August 2021 and will finish in December 2021. Learn more about construction training courses through Goodwill.