Chanel Rivera was 27-years-old, and doing work she calls “not productive,” when she first went online to research apprenticeships and trades.
“My mother used to paint for NYCHA,” Rivera says, and that’s what gave her the idea to look for something with a future. She came across the website for NEW, or Nontraditional Employment for Women, a program that prepares women for nontraditional careers in the construction, utilities, maintenance, green, and transportation industries. Rivera was accepted into the program where she says she got “a brief 101 on different trades, including electrician, carpenter, laborer, and painter.”
Upon graduation, while waiting for jobs in the trades to open up, and working in a warehouse, Rivera found out that DC 9 would be accepting applications for their Apprenticeship Program, a four-year long commitment that combines on-the-job training and classes at the Training, Finishing Trades Institute of NY.
“I waited on the line for 16 hours to get the application,” Rivera says. Her determination paid off; she got an application…applied…and was accepted for two days of orientation. “Then they accepted me into the program, which I started in February 2013.”
Rivera’s first job was in industrial painting working for Fine Construction Specialties. It lasted one-and-a-half years, painting in places like the MTA, World Trade Center, and sanitation plants, as well as performing lead paint removal and learning to drive boom lifts; among other tasks. From that, Rivera went on to work for Island Painting, in commercial and residential sites doing “high rises, offices – like Google and Snapchat,” and learning decorative painting and specialties like venetian plastering. “Now I can do anything from industrial to very fancy work,” Rivera says. She became a Foreman on the same job in 2016, both painting and supervising as needed.
Rivera graduated from the DC 9 Apprenticeship Program in March of 2017. Today, she is still at Island Painting.
“I’m very happy with the job,” Rivera says. “Everyone is very respectful.” Rivera learned on the job from former graduates of the same program, as well as “old school guys,” who never went through a program and didn’t always initially understand the need to share what they knew. “But I was always aggressive and asked questions, so they saw my determination, and then they started to help. I’m the only woman in the company out of about 75; I have a no-nonsense attitude – I got it from my mom. She was like, ‘Let your work speak for itself.’ And that’s what I do.”