Women in Construction: Norristown Resident Maya Crockem’s Journey Turned A Hobby Into A Career
NORRISTOWN — Although she wasn’t aware of it at the time, the seeds of Maya Crockem’s future as a woman in construction were planted early on in life. As a child, the Norristown resident would jump at every chance she got to try her hand at building something with her father, who was a carpenter. And visits to her grandmother’s house invariably included time with her learning something from one or more of HGTV’s home improvement programs.
“HGTV is pretty much the only channel my grandmother watched,” said Crockem. “So it has always been in my life.”
Even with these two major influences, as well as experience after experience that left her feeling fulfilled working with her hands, Crockem never gave trade school serious thought once she graduated high school—as is so often the case for young women. Instead, she went “the more traditional route” and enrolled at Temple, where she earned her degree in psychology. After graduation, she quickly learned that the industry wasn’t full of jobs, so she searched for a while until she finally found a job in the field of psychology.
Still, even though she had a job “in her field”—Crockem felt something was out of place.
“The climate wasn’t quite suited for me,” said Crockem. “It didn’t seem to match my interest.”
She realized that she needed to make a change, so she kept her eyes open for other options. This led her to a job fair being hosted by JEVS Human Services, a nonprofit in the Delaware Valley that assists more than 25,000 people each year in becoming self-sufficient and satisfied. Not realizing that JEVS also operates a trade school in Northeast Philadelphia—Orleans Technical College—Crockem was surprised, to say the least, at what she discovered at the job fair.
“I went to a JEVS job fair and pulled up to a trade school,” Crockem said. “I thought ‘This is so awesome!’ It was this toy dangling in front of me.”
As Crockem continued working in the psychology field, the idea of going to school to learn a trade remained in the back of her mind. It just never seemed to be the right time for a change—until COVID-19 hit. During this dark time for the global society, Crockem saw a ray of light and created for herself an opportunity to make a change. She enrolled in Orleans Tech’s Building Maintenance career training program.
The six-month day program teaches diversified skills needed to maintain and renovate commercial and residential properties. Students learn basic skills in electricity, carpentry, plumbing, heating and air conditioning maintenance along with additional specialty skills. And with students ranging from all ages and demographics—from the 18-year-old high-school graduate to the 40-year-old changing careers to someone over 50 looking to acquiring a skill to utilize as they age—Crockem fit right in.
“More and more of the public is realizing that the trades are a great career and one in which the demand for work should always remain strong,” said Debbie Bello, Admissions Director at JEVS’ Orleans Tech. “The demand for what we provide is rising, and we are seeing more interest from everyone—including women. Not only has the number of women graduating from our programs been steadily growing, but our female students really seem to excel and are sought after by employers.”