Program helps women enter construction industry in Tampa

- A basic lesson on how to use a hammer and nail is changing the face of the Bay Area workforce.

"There's a big demand for tradesmen and workers in the construction field so this class will give the ladies the opportunity to be able to go out and compete in that arena," said Kimberly Kitchen.

Kitchen is the project coordinator for Women Building Futures, a program offered at The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women. It's a 15-week hands-on course that teaches women skills that some might find intimidating.

"The thing was, at the construction site, women get the catcalls and all of this stuff.  So it was scary at first," said Kitchen. "It's OK to learn everything that you need to learn, to be a force in the industry that you chose to be in."

Part of becoming a force starts with the basics, like learning the tools of the trade.

"I just knew what they were and not all of them by name," said student Candra Mack Granville.

She said this will give her an advantage in the real estate business.

"You can negotiate your materials better, you can know your workers better, and it's just going to end up being a better project," said Granville.

Carmen Reyes used to have a construction business with her ex-husband. Now she wants to take that experience with the lessons she's learning to become a house flipper.

"This class is giving me the opportunity to be hands-on again and I'm looking forward to learning a lot and putting that knowledge to work," said Reyes.

Men may bring the muscle, but the women believe they have their own strengths.

"Women, we take the time we want to make it pretty, we want to make it look the best. And sometimes we spend a little more time than a man would to make it just right, to make sure the lines are just right," said Kitchen.

"We're not going to replace them, we're just going to enhance them because we still need them," added Granville.

The women are building a future for a strong, independent life.

"That's my hope for them is that each and every one of them will complete this class with a fire that says, you know what, no matter what my situation or my circumstances, I choose to be successful," said Kitchen.

The program is already enrolling students for the June courses.

For more information, visit http://thecentre.org/programs/services-for-older-adults/451-women-building-futures.

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