by Ann Bucy
SBJ Contributing Writer
Things just keep getting better for women in the construction business, according to Jennifer Jackson, director of Project CREW (Construction Readiness Education for Women), a program offered through Ozarks Technical Community College.
The program is in its fifth year, and Jackson has supervised it for the last two. "This has been our most successful year for job placement. Our placement gets better as our program gains credibility in the construction industry. There are barriers for women in employment, period. This program was based on need to begin with."
Also, Project CREW just started an internship program that gives the women a chance to see what different companies are like and provides the opportunity to generate contacts in their field.
"We're also finding companies (and organizations), like the Springfield Contractors Association, that have a commitment to hiring women," Jackson said.
CREW classes include Rough Carpentry, Trim Carpentry, Masonry, Interior Finishing, Occupational Readiness, Concrete and some general math and English classes. Project CREW students also participate in team-building exercises, upper-body strength training and personal and professional development. "It's a well-rounded program intended to address the whole person," Jackson said.
When the students have completed their coursework, they can put it toward an associate of applied science degree in construction technology.
"We turn out real, employable professionals," Jackson said. "They get practice doing community service and come out well-educated and moldable."
Project CREW is a nine-month program which begins in mid-August and ends in mid-May. Students are expected to be available for classes and outside work from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Students in the program have to be unemployed or recipients of some type of aid. "We get a number of single parents who need to support children, displaced homemakers and vocational rehabilitation participants," Jackson said.
The students' tuition is paid for by the Job Council of the Ozarks. "We're in a partnership with Job Council," Jackson said. "We both have a selective admissions process. A student has to be admitted by both Job Council and OTC to become a part of the program."
On graduation day, May 18, 11 women will be graduating from the program.
Next year's class will work on a Habitat for Humanity House in August as part of the Day of Caring sponsored by the United Way of the Ozarks.
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