by Emily Langner
On episode 8 of High-Profile’s Build Better podcast, Anastasia was joined by Mary Vogel, executive director of Building Pathways, and Andrea Dunn, a sprinkler fitter apprentice at E.M. Duggan, to talk about the benefits of the Building Pathways program and how it is changing lives and contributing to much-needed diversity in the construction industry.
Building Pathways is an eastern Massachusetts organization that creates opportunities for low-income area residents to access and prepare for building trades apprenticeships and family-sustaining careers in the construction industry. It was launched in 2011 by the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District to address the continued disparities in apprenticeship for women, people of color, and other under-served communities.
Vogel has been with the organization since its inception, and is very passionate about its mission to increase access and opportunities for women and people of color to pursue careers in the building trades. She says one of the primary goals of the program is to “expose participants to all of the trades so that they can make a more informed decision on what trade is a good fit for them.”
Building Pathways’ pre-apprenticeship program consists of a six-week training session with classroom and hands-on learning experiences designed to prepare participants for apprenticeships in the trades, but Vogel says it is so much more. Participants receive guidance in choosing the trade that aligns with their interests and utilizes their strengths, along with help in navigating the application process. Building Pathways then advocates for their acceptance into apprenticeship programs and provides additional guidance with childcare, budgeting, and other life skills to ensure their success in the industry.
Dunn says her life has been completely transformed since entering the Building Pathways program and finding employment with E.M. Duggan. After hearing about the program, she initially recommended it to others she knew, never feeling that she had what it took to succeed in the construction industry. When she finally decided to take the leap, she was living in a homeless shelter with her two children, a time in her life she describes as “rock bottom.” Now, she says, she has financial security, structure for herself and her children, and has great health care and is saving for retirement.
Dunn also speaks at the Building Pathways information sessions to help encourage and inspire other women and people of color to enroll in the program. She is proud of the fact that she can mentor others and be an example of what working hard and having determination can do for an individual and a community. For those considering a career in the building trades, she encourages them to not be afraid to take the first step. “The doors will open,” she says, “and once they open, walk through.”