Women in Trades: From Baking Cupcakes to Doing Line Work
In honor of National Women in Construction week we take a look at 29-year-old Althea’s journey to a new career path.
Always good at math and science, Althea Burgett wanted to be creative and was good with her hands but had no idea about a future career. Her dad saw the skills she possessed and pushed her during high school to get experience at a vocational tech school instead of pursing a degree in the culinary arts, but she turned him down. While he saw her as a future electrician, she decided to take the culinary route instead.
After high school, Althea spent a semester at a local school for art and design, but she didn’t enjoy her time and disliked it even more that she would have to spend 3 years in class before ever being able to use her hands. Upon leaving school, it was time to work so she decided to work in the restaurant industry and eventually opened up her own dessert bake shop.
12 years later, this mother of two had an epiphany and changed course. She told herself, “this is rough work and I have an earning income ceiling if I stay.” The time was now to make a major life change.
A single mom needing to earn the income of two parents, Althea didn’t know what to do. With a 7 and 4-month-old at home there was no way she could afford to go back to school for 2 or 4 years. “When you have kids your whole life changes and you have to focus on what’s best for everyone involved.” That is when she remembered the trades were an option to earn more and use her hands compared to working in an office setting.
“I absolutely fell in love with Orleans on my first visit and had to make a tough decision between their carpentry and electrical classes. In the end, electrical offered me more options, but I may go back for Carpentry in the future as well.”
As far as going back to school at this age, Althea was nervous as a mom, but, “It has been a lot better than I thought. I took it one day at a time and knew that sacrificing 6 months to change my life was well worth it.” In fact, Altheas continues, “I’m the only women in my class but I’m at the top of my class!! I came in not knowing how to do more than screw in a lightbulb and now I have a 4.0. I even use school as a motivating factor with my son. I share my grades and ask him what he did in school today too.”
Althea looks back on the direction her life took and wishes she had made this career switch sooner. “Growing up, a lot of folks believe that people in the trades are not smart. I went to college not even thinking of the trades as an option. I was ‘too smart’ to do anything other than college, but I didn’t enjoy it. This work actually does take intelligence and I love it. The staff and faculty here care about your learning and ultimate success, and I felt it from day one.”
Althea currently has two job offers for jobs in the region and is excited to take the next step in her new career!