Learning While She Earns

Teachability and Hard Work Keep Jerniqua Major on a Path to Success

Continuing education is a way of life for Jerniqua Major. From carpentry training at a Florida technical college to the Construction Ready Pre-Apprenticeship and advanced Construction Ready PLUS programs, Jerniqua has built a rewarding career in the skilled trades over the past seven years. Today she’s a buck hoist operator for J.E. Dunn Construction, where she’s excited about more opportunities to learn, both on and off the job. All that effort to learn has paid off for her – and she’s not done yet.

“My next goal is to get my associate’s degree,” says Jerniqua, who is taking online construction management classes from Atlanta Technical College as her work schedule allows.

As a high school student, Jerniqua had an English teacher who challenged her class to set five- and ten-year goals for themselves. Even then she recognized she wanted a hands-on career, and she began moving toward it by learning cabinetry and furniture making at Fort Myers Technical College.

She graduated in 2017 and the next year moved to Atlanta, where she spent three years with Wellborn Henson, a commercial millwork contractor. After a short stint with a furniture company, she took some time to reassess her career path and realized, she says, that “I still needed some more training.”

A Google search led her to Construction Ready, whose extensive network of hiring partners caught her eye. She recognized the likelihood that, at the end of the 20-day program, “I was going to get a job.”

Jerniqua graduated with Westside Works Group 37 in August 2021, and was matched with Ujamaa Construction for a laborer position. A year later she continued her training through Construction Ready PLUS, finishing that program in April 2022.

Jerniqua worked on several projects with Ujamaa, including a Chase Bank branch, a childcare center at Southlake Mall, and Microsoft’s Atlantic Yards facility in West Midtown Atlanta. In fall 2022 she moved to J.E. Dunn, which offers its employees an array of training courses; forklift operator and rigger are among the opportunities that interest her.

For now, however, she enjoys her role as a buck hoist operator, particularly the interaction with various contractors. She sees it as an opportunity to “get better as far as talking more and communicating with people.”

Jerniqua also learned to be more vocal through her training in Construction Ready PLUS, which is generously supported by The Home Depot Foundation and includes NCCER Crew Leadership among the advanced credentials students can earn. That experience pushed her to step out of her comfort zone.

“I’m still working on speaking up,” she says. “I’m a quiet person. I’m the type of person to try to stay in my place and mind my own business. But I’m trying to talk more. That way, I can move up. I want to do more.”

After finishing her associate’s degree, Jerniqua plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but she doesn’t envision sitting in an office all day, managing a project from a distance. She’ll still relish the day-to-day hands-on work as well: “I don’t mind doing both,” she says. “I’m coming at it from both angles.”

Having benefitted from Construction Ready’s fully funded training programs, Jerniqua offers some words of encouragement to others who might be exploring the opportunity: “I would tell them, ‘Go for it. It’s only for 20 days,’” she says. “I’d tell them that you get your OSHA 10, and if you want to go back for more training, you can get your OSHA 30. And not only that, but once you’re done with the training, you get a job offer from whichever company picks you.”

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