CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jackie Rea spent much of her life making cakes at Kroger stores. But after a recent divorce and relocation, Rea, 50, decided to trade in her icing spatula for a concrete finishing float and start a new career in the construction industry.
The West Virginia Women Work organization has given Rea hands-on training in her trade, which has landed her an apprenticeship with the Plasterers, Cement Masons and Shop Hands Local 926. Rea and the 11 other women in West Virginia Women Work’s Step Up For Women program in the Kanawha Valley have been building a miniature firehouse at Charleston’s “Safety City” in recent weeks as they finish up the free 11-week program.
“I can’t do a sit-down job,” Rea said Thursday at the job site at Safety City, her hands and clothes splattered and stained with red concrete dye. “I’m tall for a girl and stronger — most of the time — but I just like getting out and doing things.”
Though every woman’s story is different, they all come into the Step Up for Women program with the same goal — to get a job and start a career in a trade. Misty Mayville, job developer and program coordinator for West Virginia Women Work, said the program has helped hundreds of women get training and earn jobs in trades that have historically been dominated by men.
“For some of them, it’s just absolutely changed their lives…