VWW Graduates Largest Trailblazers Cohort
By Jillian Scannell, Engagement Manager
This week, the largest Trailblazers class to date will graduate in South Burlington. We’ll be celebrating these 17 female and gender-expansive individuals who have spent the last seven weeks learning construction and renewable energy skills and getting hands-on experience in the trades.
VWW Office Renovation
In addition to learning in the shop at the Local Carpenter’s Union, this Trailblazers class practiced their new construction skills by assisting in the renovation work done by Montpelier Construction at the Vermont Works for Women office in Winooski.
The first step to the renovation was the demolition of a few walls and the removal of lights and a built-in desk with a heavy granite top. The class then got to test their carpentry and finishing skills by building new shelves, constructing new walls in the entryway, and installing sheet rock. Led by VWW’s long-time electrical instructor Danielle Bombardier, participants also learned basic electrical skills by helping to check and re-wire outlets and run cords for lights. Participants will assist Mike Dever of Acorn Painting in putting on the finishing touches this week. We are so grateful to our contractors, especially Harry Strand at Montpelier Construction, for helping us complete an important renovation and using it as a hands-on learning opportunity for our participants.
On-site Work Experiences
While the VWW office renovation work has concluded, the on-site experiences didn’t stop there. 14 Trailblazers completed or will complete internships with eight local employers including Acorn Painting, BETA Technologies, Burlington Electric Department, Montpelier Construction, Cathedral Square, Engelberth Construction, Lewis Creek Builders, and Wooden Hammer. Each participant received a basic tool bag to get them started on their trades journeys as well as a stipend to cover their expenses.
Many of the participants chose to split their time between multiple employers, trying different types of trades to see what they like. Reflecting on the internship and class, one participant shared “I’ve gained confidence in my skills and confidence in myself.”
Optional Heat Pump Installation Training
A new addition to our Trailblazers program, ten of the participants will spend next week training in heat pump installation with Vermont Adult Learning’s EnergyWorks program. Taught by former Step Up participant Patiance Johnson, the Trailblazers will earn an EPA-recognized credential. We are looking forward to this new partnership with VAL and hope to provide all our cohorts with this opportunity in the future.