Oregon Tradeswomen has the privilege of meeting some truly amazing women during every Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) we hold, and our most recent graduating class was no exception. Janet Huerta decided to embark on a new path after the tragic passing of both her parents on the same day and she enrolled in TACC.
Janet had worked in social services for decades, assisting survivors of abuse. Both her father and step-father were woodworkers, her brother started his career in framing as a teen, and her nephew is a laborer, so tools and workshops were familiar to Janet. A particularly harsh winter in central Oregon one year devastated the house that Janet had called home for 20 years and due to the high demand for skilled tradespeople, she was unable to get help to fix the damage the ice had wreaked. This dilemma sparked a question in Janet’s mind: “Why can’t I do this?”
When she quit her job to care for her parents full-time, this question stuck with her. Janet connected with Oregon Tradeswomen’s Outreach Coordinator, Anjeanette Brown, at a Women’s Foundation of Oregon event, and began her relationship with Oregon Tradeswomen as a donor. After the passing of her parents, Janet’s brother encouraged her to begin volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, which would give her an even better idea if this new path would be a good fit. Janet soon discovered that most of the other volunteers were retired tradespeople whose experience allowed them to take first dibs on certain parts of the building process. Unfortunately, Janet wasn’t getting training opportunities as fast as she would have liked.
In May of 2018, Janet attended Oregon Tradeswomen’s annual Career Fair which solidified her interest in pre-apprenticeship. After the event, she made sure to check the Oregon Tradeswomen website every day to make sure she didn’t miss the opportunity to register for the Fall TAC Class. Not only did she register for TACC, but she caught it two-handed. The 8 weeks of TACC flew by and, surprised by how well she did, Janet proved to herself that with baby steps, her goals were attainable. In her own words, Janet says, “the most valuable part of pre-apprenticeship is the chance to let go of any fear or self-doubt that holds all of us back from trying new things and finding out ‘We Can!’ It is what happens for everyone here whether it is intentional or not. Oregon Tradeswomen creates a space to overcome fear or doubt and instills an internal mechanism to problem-solve anything.”
Janet went on to complete our Environmental Worker Training Track with a HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) certification, and on her last day of training, she was approached by a family friend who needed a toilet installed. Feeling confident in her abilities, she recruited a classmate, and they set off to lend a helping hand. Having successfully executed her first gig, Janet knew she could turn this into a business! And from that thought emerged The Build-It Sisters, a business based in Sisters, Oregon that Janet hopes to expand to hire Oregon Tradeswomen graduates and other women. With more work already lined up through word-of-mouth, Janet’s goal is to go above and beyond other contractors, skillfully completing jobs and leaving spaces nicer than they were before.
There are so many paths for our graduates to explore when they leave pre-apprenticeship and we love to hear about all the creative ways they take the skills learned during class and apply them in the work-force. Not only do we need women in apprenticeship, but we also need more female contractors and business owners. We wish Janet the best in her endeavors and cannot wait to share in the successes of her and her trades sisters!