From Apprenticeship to Mentorship

Author:  Eric R. Lucero
In 1978, Beatrice Andrews took the first step toward a lifelong career when she enrolled in an apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 613 at the age of 24.

Apprenticeship sml“Every day was an opportunity to prove I belonged and I could do it,” she said.

Her hard work and determination paid off: After completing her apprenticeship, she was certified as an electrician and wireman, and found jobs through her union in Georgia and other states. Most importantly, she had a career.

“Being able to provide for my daughter was a great feeling,” Beatrice said. “But knowing I had a technical career that was in-demand − and being one of the few women in that career field − was amazing.”

Beatrice excelled in her trade for 37 years, retiring in 2015. Today, she mentors high school students, and educates young people on the benefits of pursuing apprenticeships in electrical, plumbing, and carpentry work. She also helps with the “Mentoring a Girl in Construction” program, a free camp designed to introduce high school girls to careers in construction.

“Apprenticeships can be the opportunity for young people, especially girls, to jumpstart their careers,” she said. “They’ll learn a much-needed trade, and in most cases have their school paid for. Done right, they can start their life with a valuable job, college degree, and zero debt. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Beatrice shared her story at a recent Women in Apprenticeship event in Atlanta hosted by the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and the Georgia Office of Apprenticeship. Charmaine Davis, the Women’s Bureau regional administrator in Atlanta, knows young women need role models like Beatrice to show them the way.

“I believe it can be very motivating for young girls to see women who have made it in career fields not normally associated with female employees. It lets them know that they, too, can succeed,” said Charmaine. “Beatrice is confident and self-assured. She is not easily intimidated and she is willing to be a trailblazer. That’s exactly what these young women need to be exposed to.”