When Lauree Sheppard found herself without a job and without the money to fund training she wanted, “Goodwill was there.”
For nearly 12 years, Lauree worked as a dental assistant. The schedule in the dentist’s office afforded her the flexibility she required to raise her young child. Toward the end of 2019, she was growing tired of her work and was looking to make a change. Like it did for many this year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused Lauree to alter her plans. After being laid off and filing for unemployment benefits, Lauree decided it was time to pursue a career that would fulfill her.
“What makes me happy is the construction industry,” she said. “In my previous life, I was an AutoCAD drafter, so I worked with engineers and architects and drew up all of the blueprints,” she said. When the economy crashed in 2008, Lauree decided to join the medical field, looking for job stability. She’s excited to be back to doing what brings her joy. Her first step was to earn her Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
As it happens, Lauree drove past the Goodwill Opportunity Campus on Wilkinson Boulevard every day of her driving test, and saw a sign advertising free courses in construction. Lauree said, “the day that I graduated and got my CDL and all my certificates, I actually went right across the street and was like, ‘I’m done! What can I do now?’ Goodwill opened the door for me and let me choose my path.” She enrolled in the Construction Basics evening course, and through Goodwill’s job training and employment services, was paired with employer engagement specialist Matt Robson.
“I’ve been working with Matt doing the virtual hiring events, and right before COVID-19 they had a few job fairs, and I went to all of them and handed out my resume, but it just seemed like a lot of the companies want people with experience, and of course I’m just stepping back into this field with my CDL, so I didn’t have experience,” she explained. Her new knowledge of worksite vocabulary and construction principles learned through Construction Basics, coupled with Matt’s support to prepare her for interviews proved to be a winning combination. “Matt gave me a call on a Friday and asked me to send in my resume. Then on Monday, I got a phone call from Hi-Way Paving saying that they got my resume, and they ended up interviewing me on the spot,” she said. She started working with Hi-Way Paving right away. She was so surprised at how fast it all happened!
Lauree is currently working the night shift on the runways at Charlotte Douglas International Airport until the end of December. She’s the only woman at her company who is working in the field. “It is hard, but I know I want to be an advocate for women in construction – we need women to be the civil engineers, to be the brains behind the construction industry,” she said. “They don’t expect me to work as hard as the guys, but I want to try to do my part and show that I can help.”
Lauree hasn’t decided what her dream career in construction is, but she knows she’s on the right path. She’s considering options as a foreman, surveyor, or blueprint estimator, and is enjoying learning everything she can right now. “This may not be my end job, but they’re giving me the opportunity to learn so it’s a win-win,” she said.
Lauree plans to enroll in Goodwill’s free Blueprint Reading & Estimating course when it becomes available in-person, and encourages anyone interested in taking that first step toward a new career to seek out Goodwill programs, too. “I never knew about these courses, but I’ve been telling my friends about them! It’s a great opportunity to get something under your belt, and it gave me the stepping stones that I needed, that I otherwise wouldn’t have had,” she said. Lauree believes when someone falls on hard times, they deserve the opportunity to succeed.
If you’re looking to start 2021 with a new path to success, take Lauree’s advice – go to Goodwill, put in the effort, and don’t be afraid. Goodwill is here for you.