Audra started working at a fast food restaurant as a junior in high school and continued there for three years after graduating. She then left for a job in a grocery store deli that paid slightly better, though after another three years Audra knew that in order to move out of her parent’s home she would have to find a different kind of job, one that could support a household. After some research Audra found that the Plumbers Union was accepting applications for their apprenticeship program, though she was unsure of exactly what the position entailed, she noticed that the apprentices earned a living wage so she applied. She passed the initial exam and was offered an interview, but missed the letter in the mail stating when it was scheduled. When she contacted the Plumbers Union again she learned she had missed her interview and the union hall informed her about the Step Up for Women Program. Step Up was the investigative opportunity that Audra needed to discover her interests and learn about the different types of companies, unions, and apprenticeship programs. She found she had an interest in electrical wiring and decided to pursue employment with an electrical company. Before receiving the results from her Electrician Apprentice Licensing Exam, Audra approached an electrical company about job shadowing with them as a laborer. After her job shadow the company offered her an entry-level position, but shortly after Audra received some bad news. She had failed her licensing exam, but the staff at West Virginia Women Work coached her to negotiate maintaining the job offer and working as a laborer dependent on earning her license in a short time. Step Up staff then requested that the State Fire Marshal return to the training center in Morgantown, WV to retest Audra. The second time Audra tested she passed! She received a dollar raise and is currently working hands-on with the electrical wiring on a job site as an Electrician Apprentice! 


Denise had worked as a nurse for nearly twenty years and was feeling distressed by all of the sickness and death she had experienced over the years. She felt trapped in her career until she and her husband built their own log home. During the project, Denise found that she genuinely enjoyed construction, yet she feared attempting to change careers because of her age and gender. In hopes of attaining employment in the construction industry, Denise applied to the Step Up for Women Program. Throughout the program Denise found that she didn’t enjoy all parts of construction, during the electrical portion she struggled often and even considered quitting the program because she felt she couldn’t handle the work. Though once Denise began the carpentry portion of the class she improved dramatically! Denise quickly found her niche and her morale was indicative of this- when the class spent a day working for Habitat for Humanity, Denise spent four hours in the ninety degree heat working on the roof and when she came down she was covered in sweat but had a smile stretched across her face. Denise was very dedicated to completing the tasks she was assigned and really took pride in her work. Her positivity and dedication was contagious and often rubbed off on many of her peers. Denise was delighted when she was offered a position with Russell Roofing Company in Winchester, VA earning $12.00 an hour.


After graduating high school in 2009, Kelsi went to college, after only one semester she knew college was not a good fit for her. Kelsi spent the next three years working entry level jobs in retail, restaurants, and nursing homes. Throughout this time the highest wage she earned was $8.50 an hour. When she was accepted into the Step Up for Women program she was working as a cook thirty five hours a week making only $7.35 an hour. Because she didn’t make enough to live on her own Kelsi lived in Salem, WV with her family, an hour away from the Step Up training site. But determined to improve her life Kelsi made the drive to Morgantown each day to later earn an Attendance Award, while also holding her job. She took every opportunity afforded to her in the training program and earned all five licenses and certifications, as well as applied to every union apprenticeship introduced to her in the program. Steve Purdue, the training coordinator for the Sheetmetal Workers Union Apprenticeship Program, came into the Step Up classroom to present information on the employment opportunity and encourage participants to apply, which Kelsi did. After passing the entrance exam, she was invited to interview and accepted into the program! However, there was no immediate work for new apprentices and her name was added to a list of people that would be called to work when it became available. Kelsi continued to pursue gainful employment and took the opportunity to apply to another apprenticeship program with the Painters and Allied Trades Workers Union during a tour of their training facility. The following week, two training coordinators from the Painters Union visited the Step Up classroom to interview participants. Kelsi was again accepted, this time into the Glaziers Apprenticeship Program. And this time, there was work to begin immediately. Kelsi met with the training coordinator one more time in the Step Up office and was put to work the following Monday! Kelsi is now making $15.00 an hour and is on track to become a Journeyman making over $30 an hour in just three short years. She can finally afford to start looking for a place of her own and has never been more excited about her future! 


Lacy is a single mother of two beautiful girls. She had previously worked for several contractors and enjoyed construction very much, but she lacked the necessary resources to gain additional training. She was interested in doing both union and commercial work yet was unsure about the union application process. With the help of West Virginia Women Work, Lacy was given the training and skill set necessary to gain employment in the construction industry. Lacy was introduced to all of the different trades unions and applied to several of them. She is now employed as a tile settler and loves the work she is doing, Lacy is also waiting to hear back from the unions to which she applied. Lacy once explained, “Without Step Up I would not have the knowledge that I do! I’m so thankful to West Virginia Women Work for all the skills that I have gained and the licenses I have earned!”


Lawanda applied to the Step up for Women training program because her retail salary did not allow her to adequately provide for her two daughters. Previously she had held a construction related position, but was eventually laid off and unable to gain new employment in the same field. Though she didn’t feel that she possessed the skills necessary to pursue a construction position, in reality Lawanda had many skills but lacked proper training and self confidence. Lawanda’s Step Up instructor, Jennifer Wood, noticed that throughout the class Lawanda tended to work harder than others and was always properly prepared for the next day’s work. Lawanda gained the necessary training during class and was always ready to test out her abilities during hands-on training sessions, which also allowed her to gain confidence in her knowledge and abilities in electrical, plumbing and carpentry work. Outside of class Lawanda was proactive when it came to the job search portion of the program; she consistently made an effort to network and followed up job leads. Lawanda’s hard work and dedication paid off and she was offered two positions in only her seventh week of class!  Ultimately she was hired by E.L. Kellogg, an electrical contractor based in Chantilly, VA, and offered a starting wage of $13.00 an hour with excellent benefits. She is now looking forward to completing her probationary period and becoming a registered apprentice! 


Mary is a single mother who had tried both college and entry level work, but hadn’t found anything she felt suited her. She had always enjoyed the outdoors and working with her hands. Mary wanted a career but felt bogged down by the debt she had accrued in college and thus was unable to pursue further education. Mary contacted a Step Up coordinator after she saw an advertisement for the program. Mary did well immediately! She was a very quick learner and caught on fast, while also always helping those who were struggling with the material. Mary was hired as a laborer soon after graduating from the Step Up Program and went to work as a residential contractor. She was so grateful. Several weeks later, Mary was offered an interview with the Carpenters Union and was hired! Mary is currently working in her hometown of St. Albans, West Virginia and thoroughly enjoys the work she is doing!


Desiree B. was fortunate and gained an early start in the electrical field during high school. When she graduated she had already obtained her electrical apprenticeship license and was preparing to take the journeyman’s exam. She decided to expand her skills and explore other skilled trades by enrolling in Step Up for Women.

Having never had a job, she found the lessons on resume writing, interviewing, and meeting employer expectations very helpful. As a student enrolled in the Step Up Program she also obtained her OSHA 10 Hr card, expanded on her limited carpentry skills, and was introduced to welding.

Desiree enjoyed the welding training so much she decided to seek employment that would allow her to increase her welding skills by providing an occasional opportunity to use them. Her efforts paid off as she landed something much better than an occasional opportunity to practice welding. Desiree is now employed with FCX in Morgantown, WV as a full time welder making $9.50 an hour! (Fall, 2007).

The position she landed will allow her to continue to increase her wages as her welding skills and experience increase.


Denise’s home was completely destroyed by fire in 2006. She and her husband then decided to rebuild their home little by little as they could afford to purchase materials. Together they began working on a beautiful new two story A frame home.

While working with her husband building their new home, Denise realized she really enjoyed the work and began to think about a new career in the skilled trades as an alternative to her present job as a bartender. It was then that she read an ad in the paper recruiting students for the Step Up for Women program which she called immediately. Her only concerns were her age and remedial math skills. Denise was 50 years old at her time of application and didn’t know how that might affect her ability to get a job upon graduating and was concerned that she hadn’t studied math since high school. With encouragement from the WVWW staff, Denise also enrolled in the WVU Brownfields Environmental Training Program. She also scored a record setting six grades higher in math on the TABE test. Armed with her new skills and certifications she was able to land a job right away with Miller Environmental Inc. as a Support Technician making $14.50 an hour and an opportunity to learn valuable skills in the hazardous materials and waste cleanup industry. When she’s not out on an emergency clean up call with Miller Environmental, she is on site with Lonnie Ball Contracting doing commercial construction and inventory management. A position she landed by walking on site with a resume and the confidence gained at West Virginia Women Work! (Fall, 2007)


Jessica enrolled in Step Up for Women at a hard time in her life. She was in the process of filing bankruptcy and because of her lack of income he had lost her license because she was unable to pay fines.

Jessica had always been interested in non traditional occupations and desperately needed to find a career path that would lead to financial freedom. On only her second day of class the staff of WVWW encouraged her to apply to the Carpenter’s Union before the application period closed. She passed the math test administered during the application period and was able to land one of the Apprentice positions making $14.50 an hour plus benefits. Her work has kept her close to her home in the Morgantown area.

Jessica last reported that she was working seven twelve hour shifts and loving every minute of it! (Fall, 2007).


Pamela had just relocated to West Virginia when her friend, Denise Mogyoros, told her about Step Up for Women. She had spent years working in a window factory before her move so she already knew that working at a desk was not for her. Like her friend, Pamela was concerned that her age, 50, would be a factor in finding employment in the skilled trades industry. Pamela was able to put those fears to rest when she obtained an Apprenticeship with the Laborer’s Union after hearing a representative from the union speak to the Step Up participants.

She’s earning $12 per hour during her first year and will increase in pay as her skills continue to grow. She has already made a return visit to speak to the participants of the class set to graduate after her own. She told them of how the skills learned in the Step Up program should be used as a stepping stone to bigger and better (paying) things! After only one year on the job Pamela is wrapping up training that will complete the “2nd” year of her Apprenticeship. (Fall, 2007).


Rhonda L. came to speak to the WVWW staff several times over the span of a year before committing to enrolling into the Step Up for Women program. She took that time to evaluate all of her options and make an informed decision about training for her future.

Rhonda had worked in the medical field specializing with two master’s degrees as a therapist when she decided it was time for a change. Not wanting to practice what her education and experience qualified her for, she began looking for a career that would be able to replace her former income.

She had several concerns about a nontraditional career in the skilled trades. One of them was her age, 46, and that was coupled with the fact that she had worked at a desk her entire life.

She didn’t allow that to stop her from tackling barriers and landing a competitive apprenticeship position with March Westin Inc. before the Step Up program concluded. March Westin is the largest construction contracting company in the state of WV.

Rhonda was fortunate to be able to submit the training hours she had completed during the Step Up for Women program to March Westin Inc. which advanced her logged apprenticeship hours and moved her closer to a higher pay grade.

Since being hired, March Westin, Inc. has assisted Rhonda in researching what each trade union has to offer and has encouraged her to pursue a career as a Journeyman Electrician or Carpenter with their full support and help. (Spring, 2008).


When Dawn P. applied to the Step Up for Women training program she was working very part time under the table as a laborer responsible for transporting estate items with an auction company. Her wages averaged ~$150 week.

She had some experience in carpentry and obviously wasn’t afraid of hard work. She had no children but lived with her grandmother on a vast farm that needed constant upkeep.

Dawn made it to class everyday despite working late into the night on the farm and also worked as needed on weekends and evenings with the auction company. On top of all that, she suffered from TMJ making some days unbearable with pain and causing a mountain of medical bills. She needed to find a job offering the kind of wages that would make a dent in her fast growing debt.

After graduating, WVWW made arrangements for Dawn to meet with Allan Crossland of Valley General Contracting. After the interview Mr. Crossland offered her a position with the company. Dawn was given a list of tools she would need to do her job.

Even though she was given several weeks to purchase the tools it was still a daunting list as it was long and expensive. WVWW was able to purchase many of the tools as part of Dawn’s graduation gift and then contacted other agencies in the area to help out as much as possible with the remaining tool expense.

She began her new job and really enjoyed the work and the crew she was working with. After several months with the company Dawn was contacted to interview with the Laborers Union for an Apprenticeship position. Dawn now truly has the dedication and skills necessary to continue climbing the ladder of successes. (Spring, 2008).