Trailblazers 2023: A Year in Review
By: Jillian Scannell, VWW Engagement Manager
That’s a wrap on Trailblazers 2023!
Trailblazers is Vermont Works for Women’s pre-apprenticeship construction training program for women and gender-expansive individuals ages 18+. The seven-week long program provides a safe, non-judgmental environment for participants to build skills, gain confidence, and explore fields that tend to be male-dominated.
2023 at a Glance
This year, we trained 55 Trailblazers in four locations across the state – South Burlington, Barre, Hartford, and Rutland. Participants learned a variety of new trades skills, supported community build projects including flood recovery projects, and completed on-site internships with local employers.
Our first class of 2023 was Trailblazers: Green, focused on renewable energy, and was held at the Central Vermont Career Center. The graduation of this class marked an exciting milestone – 100 graduates since the inception of Trailblazers in 2019.
Barre Trailblazers learned the basics of carpentry, electrical, and solar installation. In addition to helping a Middlebury College class construct a feminist-themed mini golf course, the Barre class had the opportunity to practice carrying solar panels and using a ladder at SunCommon’s practice installation roof.
Four of the eight Trailblazers completed internships with local employers, three of which resulted in job offers!
Our South Burlington Trailblazers class was a special one, and not just because it was our largest class to-date with 17 graduates. In addition to the learning in the shop and the classroom at the Local Carpenters Union Training Facility, Trailblazers supported Montpelier Construction in a renovation at the Vermont Works for Women office. The renovation included demolition, carpentry, electrical, and painting. Thanks to Harry Strand at Montpelier Construction for helping us complete the renovation and using it as an incredible hands-on learning opportunity for our students.
Additionally, in a new component to our Trailblazers program, participants had the chance to participate in a Heat Pump Installation training with Vermont Adult Learning’s Energy Works program.
For the first time since 2019, Trailblazers returned to Hartford this summer. During the program, 13 of the 15 graduates interned with local employers for internships. From installing solar panels to residential home framing, Trailblazers found their internships impactful and fun!
Our Hartford Trailblazers also spent two Saturdays volunteering with COVER Home Repair, a non-profit based in White River Junction that provides urgent home repairs for low-income homeowners at no charge. Projects with COVER included installing a mobility ramp, repairing a roof, and adding insulation to a home.
For the third year in a row, Trailblazers returned to The MINT – Rutland’s Makerspace this fall. The 15 graduates learned skills in carpentry and construction, using their skills to build new tables for The MINT’s pottery studio and build new distribution boxes for The Bridge in Montpelier (replacing those lost in the summer flooding). After putting their skills to the test in the shop, our Rutland Trailblazers also spent two Saturdays at a Habitat for Humanity build site. 11 of the 15 graduates completed internships. One person had this to say, “I feel much more confident entertaining a new career path and learned so many different components of construction.”
Interested in getting involved in next year’s Trailblazers program? In addition to offering Trailblazers in the usual South Burlington and Rutland locations, the program is expanding to Newport and Brattleboro next year. See below for the schedule and apply today at www.vtworksforwomen.org/trailblazers
2024 Trailblazers Schedule
- South Burlington – Carpenter’s Union March 18 – May 2
- Newport – North Country Career Center May 20 – July 3
- Brattleboro – HatchSpace July 29 – September 12
- Rutland – The MINT September 30 – November 14
Businesses and organizations that are interested in partnering with VWW on one of these classes should reach out to Trailblazers Program Manager Missy Mackin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trailblazers is supported by Carhartt, TD Charitable, KEEN Utility, and Serve Learn Earn