Tradeswomen Resources

NEW Graduates

Nontraditional Employment for Women has helped over one thousand women gain economic independence by teaching them the skills needed to get blue-collar jobs.

Profiles of NEW Graduates

QUEENS: Matilde "Mattie" Santana, 43, was interested in the trades her entire life. The daughter of a video game mechanic, she helped her father with electronic repairs as a child. In her first year as a General Utility Worker with Con Edison, Mattie says, "Never be afraid to pursue your true calling. You do not realize your full potential until you're challenged—I didn't know I had it in me until I came to NEW! NEW prepared me for the trades industry. Now I feel like I have a future not only for myself, but also for my family."

MANHATTAN:  Margarita Suarez, 39, earned her M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University, worked as a computer programmer and tradeswoman's advocate and volunteered in Nicaragua helping to build houses after Hurricane Mitch. In 2004, she began pursuing a career as a union elevator mechanic. She is currently in her fourth year with the Elevator Maintenance, Repair and Modernization division of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3. Margarita says, "My motto is find something you enjoy and are good at and stick with it. If it stops being fulfilling, try something else! Never stop learning!"

BROOKLYN: Nicole Strauss, 32, a Chinese Language Major who spent six months living in China, was working as a systems administrator before she heard about NEW. Now a fourth-year electrician's apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, Nicole credits NEW for preparing her to work in the construction industry, which has since changed her life. Nicole says, “I used to apply for subsidized housing and now I don’t even qualify for it. I am able to pay regular rent, take care of my family independently and travel at my leisure.”

BRONX: Tenee Holmes, 28, saw NEW's bus ad in Union Square and "just knew" that she could be successful in the trades. A first year apprentice with the District Council 9 Painters, Tenee feels blessed to have started her career in NEW's encouraging environment. Raised by a single mother and now raising three children of her own, Tenee says, "My experiences have taught me to ignore negativity and persevere to the end. Once I reach the top, I keep climbing."

STATEN ISLAND: Jeannette Harjo-Codd, 32, was born in Oklahoma as one of fourteen children. After completing NEW's training, she decided to pursue a career in carpentry with the New York City District Council of Carpenters. "I love my job," Jeannette says. "I love getting dressed for work, working with my hands, and getting dirty! This has been the happiest time of my life. Financially, I don’t have to worry anymore. My job provides savings for college funds for my kids.”

Quotes from NEW Graduates

“When I look back on my class at NEW, I see how this organization has changed my life, along with the lives of the women I trained with. I have seen the women in my class transform themselves into confident workers. They make a living wage, and they are making a financial investment in their own community. When you go to a site you see other women who have come from NEW and that’s really empowering. There’s a bond.”
  — Jessica Ortiz, Painter, Graduated NEW in 2004

“NEW's pre-apprenticeship programs provide valuable training for any woman interested in pursuing a career in the nontraditional industry. We are changing the face of construction. We are prepared to face challenges, to accept responsibility and to celebrate our success. NEW is changing the lives of women.”
 —Monica Harwell, Tradeswoman and Supervisor at Consolidated Edison

"Doing a man's job is satisfying, and it's just satisfying to know how to work all of these machines: the table saw, the skill saw, the router, the chainsaw. Climbing and being up on the beams and building and hammering, to me that's satisfying."

"This year I'll make about eighty-something thousand dollars. From unemployment to $9 per hour to this in seven years is like... ahhh!"

"When I first got into construction, I was very close to applying for welfare. Now I have my own home. I have a brand-new car. My daughter is in private school. I'm getting ready to buy another house. As far as the American dream, I was able to achieve that by doing this work."

"This is the first time I've had the privilege of working and studying with people from all walks of life—all interesting, strong, and just amazing. Each and every one of them has taught me something valuable that I will carry throughout my life and career."

"I really enjoyed this program. I have been exposed to something I wish I had been exposed to several years ago. I deeply appreciate the time and effort the staff has put into this program. Thank you."

"I do feel the instructors were very good. They were very fair and treated me the way a journeyman would treat an apprentice, so now I know exactly what to expect on the job."

"The program was very informative. I was somewhat intimidated at first, but now I feel very comfortable using the skills I learned at NEW anytime, at work or at home."

"I'm now in the carpenter's union Local 2090. I know I would not be in this union if it weren't for the hard work and sacrifice of each one of you. Your training laid the foundation, and your much-deserved reputation and contacts opened doors otherwise closed to me (and all women)."

"Tradeswomen at NEW helped me build my self-esteem. They not only encouraged me and prepared me for the outside world, they gave me personal support, as well."

NEW Nontraditional Employment for Women. 243 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011 (212) 627-6252

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