New York, NY – Nani Noverita’s personal story illustrates just how an innovative program and an thriving industry — plus lots of hard work and dedication — can combine to lift someone out of a difficult situation and into a new life.
Noverita, 50, began her inspiring journey eight years ago, when she was accepted into a construction program at NEW — Nontraditional Employment for Women. The non-profit group founded in 1978 works with unions to bring women into higher-paying jobs in the Building Trades.
Noverita was homeless and living in a shelter back in 2012. But then she started attending New York’s “Work First” program, where she received training and landed a job as a 311 operator.
“During the day I was in the NEW program, and I worked the night shift as the 311 operator,” Noverita recalls. “[My] shelter was in the Bronx, the night shift was at the old armory in Brooklyn, and the NEW program was in Manhattan.”
Despite the difficult schedule and living situation, Noverita hung in there. Finally, after almost two months of homelessness, she was lucky and got a cheap room in a basement. The job only paid $11/hour, and her husband at the time, a pipefitter, was only making $15. Meanwhile, at the 10-week NEW program, she was being trained in basic carpentry, basic electrical, and basic painting.
Two weeks before graduation, in July, she got an interview for a metallic lather job. The job didn’t start until January (of 2013), so she had about a six-month wait. But when it began, she was doing “inside work” putting up the infrastructure for ceilings. She worked for many companies over her first two years, “installing rebar, doing inside work, outside work.”
Noverita’s life today is completely different from her earlier struggles. She is currently living in Seattle, Washington, working on “an iconic building,” she says with pride. She’s been a forewoman since January, 2020. Although Noverita is with Local 46L in New York City, she is working out of Local 86 in Seattle — both of which are part of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Her housing situation is stable.
She loves both the city and the job. “Seattle has mountains, rivers, lakes, and I am learning to sail — I will buy a sailboat.” She says, “This career gave me a life where I can travel, be a vagabond, do whatever I want and get paid good money. And not have to start over.”
Eddie Jorge, an organizer with the New York State Ironworkers District Council, said being a part of the Ironworkers union for the past 24 years has personally transformed not only his life, but the life of his own daughter — who became a Local 40 Ironworker in 2010.
“Today, women still only make up 2-3% of our industry,” Jorge said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to support NEW and their work to eliminate obstacles and barriers to entry to grow the community of Women in the Trades. It’s rewarding for me to be able to work with this program that has helped women like Nani, my daughter, and many more. The Ironworkers District Council couldn’t be prouder of these sisters.”