Women’s Center builds program to help women enter skilled trades

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The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is helping area women build careers in the skilled trades, one concrete slab and brick at a time.

The center graduated its first class of six students in July from the new Women in Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Readiness Program. The program provides 13 weeks of training for women to start an apprenticeship position in any skilled trades occupation. It’s among several programs at the center designed to help women re-enter the workforce.

“Women involved in the program have the opportunity to graduate on Sunday and go to work on Monday,” said Cindie Alwood, co-founder and director of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing. “That is the ultimate mode of self-sufficiency — to have the opportunity to be a part of a short-term program that leads to long-term success. Construction wages in Michigan are especially high, so you can work one job and pay for the things that you need to pay for, and you get healthcare and a pension. They really get that long-term security.”

The center collaborated with Capital Area Michigan Works, Michigan State University, Granger Construction, Associated General Contractors of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Labor to launch the program.

The nonprofit organization has helped 7,500 women since the center’s doors opened in 2005. Services provided at the center include resume building workshops, support groups, professional clothing closet, counseling, computer lab, emotional support cats and a legal clinic. All services provided at the center are free and available to any woman who needs support.

Kellie Lambie, a volunteer at the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, answers phones, creates appointments and interacts with clients. Lambie is the first person visitors see when they walk through the center doors.

Photo by Helen Korneffel

Kellie Lambie, a volunteer at the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, answers phones, creates appointments and interacts with clients. Lambie is the first person visitors see when they walk through the center doors.

“I think that we are unique in the way that we provide our services,” Alwood said. “Every service here, with the exception of our support groups, is provided individually. If someone comes in at the end of their rope, they don’t have to be worried about being judged or paying for services if they don’t have any money. We believe women right when they come in the door; they don’t have to prove to us that they are in need.”

Support groups at the center provide safe spaces for women to talk about a variety of issues. These issues include how to find a new job, how to create a nurturing environment for children when there is violence in the home and how to heal from sexual violence through art therapy.

“The center is a really positive environment for people to come to,” said Andrea Chavez, a center volunteer. “Many women come in for our support groups, but sometimes people just come in to pet the cats because they need to relax and take time for themselves. When they come in, I get them a cup of coffee and just talk to them about their day.”

Kellie Lambie, a senior psychology student at Michigan State University, and Lansing resident Melanie Berg are volunteers at the center.

“I actually did an internship here over the summer, and I continued on volunteering because I just love it so much,” Lambie said. “Everyone here really loves what they do, and it’s super inspiring as somebody who wants to go into this field. It really is a wonderful place because we all truly care about our clients and their success.”

Berg said: “I’ve been coming here for so long. I originally came to the Women’s Center because I needed to do a program for Michigan Works. I was one of the first people to volunteer here through that program, and since then I’ve always stayed in touch. The Women’s Center really helped me get my footing back and find stability.”