Meet a few Construction Ready training graduates and a common theme quickly emerges: The program opens doors, both professionally and personally.
For Laquresha Prince, that means “much more opportunity than I would have had before. I’m grateful for that, because now I can have a career that puts me in a good position, and not only me, but my kids as well.”
Prince, mother to twin sons, was part of the Jaguars Group 4 class that graduated in Jacksonville in early November 2022.
For Marina Westcott, one of Prince’s fellow classmates, earning a Construction Ready education and the eight credentials that go with it is the gateway to “a career path, so I won’t have to work so many jobs.” Westcott has worked at a recycling company, at a Waffle House, and as an Uber driver, sometimes all in the same day.
Westcott and Prince, along with another female classmate, Courtney Davis, found encouragement in one another as they worked through the challenging 20-day curriculum.
Davis recalls feeling discouraged in the early days, but “as I got to know my classmates and these beautiful young ladies, they helped push me through,” she says.
Prince also found motivation by keeping the big picture in mind. As she recalls, “There were times where it was just like, I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to go to class, but just knowing what you are going to get out of it made it easier to actually show up and go through with the program.”
Training – and ultimately working – in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating, but by they time they graduated, it was clear this trio of women had earned their male counterparts’ respect. Many of the men in the class said as much in their graduation remarks.
“We were like a bunch of brothers and sisters,” says Westcott, whose job placement was with HB Next, a provider of training, safety and environmental compliance solutions. Like all graduates, she finished the training not only with basic construction skills, but as a better-prepared professional in general.
“This whole program gave us the tools that we needed,” Westcott says. “Even things we didn’t even know that we didn’t know – resumes and interviewing … we needed all that.”
Partnerships make successful training environments such as this possible. In Jacksonville, the National Football League’s Jaguars provided initial funding and brought the program to the city in early 2022, creating a win-win situation for both jobseekers and industry. With regard to the latter, Construction Ready provided a new labor source not only for area contractors, but for the Jaguars themselves, who are building a state-of-the-art training and operations facility, the Miller Electric Center, adjacent to their home field, TIAA Bank Stadium. And the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) provided scholarships that enabled these three women to go through the program.
Now Westcott can set new goals, one of which is helping her father.
“I just really want to be able to hand him a $50,000 check and say, ‘Please retire.’ That’s my main goal. I want him to retire, and I want him to be happy and proud of me and all the rest of his kids.”
Davis and Prince have their own goals as well. Prince nicely sums up her post-graduation circumstances with a construction analogy. Asked what she wants to do next, she says, “To be bigger and better – to reach for the stars. Or should I say, reach for the scaffold?”
Courtney Davis, Laquresha Prince and Murina Westcott pose in downtown Jacksonville following their graduation with Jaguars Group 4.