The sky’s the limit. That overwhelming confidence was contagious among graduates of the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Women In Hard Hats’ inaugural class. 

Five beaming women ꟷ armed with hands-on training, critical thinking skills, and pink hard hats ꟷ discovered that the male-dominated construction industry is not only open to women – it’s in need of them. 

“You’ve helped change five women’s lives,” Class of 2021 graduate Heather Vind. “What will come from us and trickle down to other women hopefully will ultimately change communities. This was an awesome experience.” 

The April 15th  virtual commencement ceremony was the conclusion of a seven-week, pre-apprentice training program, headed by Michelle Bozeman, senior member development manager for the Urban League. Partnering with Operation Fresh Start, Bozeman added that the new program aims to provide a path toward self-sufficiency through education, mentoring and employment training. It highlights women as viable components of the construction industry and raises awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry. 

“I am looking to these lovely ladies to be ambassadors to the Urban League and to other women who they can bring into the industry,” Bozeman said. 

Women make up 10.9% of the U.S. construction workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women represent about 24% of the City of Madison Engineering Division’s workforce. In all, the United States spends nearly$1.3 trillion annually in construction. 

“I learned a lot,” said graduate, Yolanda Artis. “I learned how to stay on my feet, how to stay focus and how to stay driven. I come from a background where sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Now, I’ve learned I can do what makes me happy.” 

The Urban League is one of Greater Madison’s largest community-based providers of career development training and job placement assistance for unemployed and underemployed adults. 

“We are proud of you today graduates,” said Dr. Ruben L. Anthony Jr., president & CEO of the local Urban League. “Many places are looking for new talent and they are looking to diversify their workforce … Remember, as you enter the industry, the challenges won’t stop. But, I’m confident you will exceed all expectations.”