June 14, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The Nontraditional Employment for Women Awards Luncheon was held this year at New York’s Hilton Hotel on Thursday, June 9 th .
To a packed house, the Equity Leadership Awards Presentation honored Jay L. Kriegel, Senior Advisor, Related Companies,
James P. Mahoney, President, New York State Iron Workers District Council, Mary Ann Tighe,CEO, New York Tri-State Region, CBRE, Inc., and Leah Rivera, Sheet Metal Worker and NEW d Graduate, Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association, Local Union No. 28.
NEW provides free training programs for women, and places women in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades. It has been in operation for 38 years.
Described to LaborPress as a “coup” by leaders of the event, Chris Lu, United States Deputy Secretary of Labor, spoke at the awards, and lauded NEW. He thanked NEW on behalf of President Obama, and said that in his travels, business owners say that they are ready to hire, but can’t find skilled workers, while workers say they don’t have needed skills. “There is a way, now,” he said. “That way is apprenticeship,” which is offered through NEW’s program. Millions of dollars in funds were put into apprenticeship programs by the government, he said,
which is making diversity its hallmark – both in the types of people and the types of jobs for which there is training. “One of our key priorities is to expand these to women,” he added. “You have a friend and partner in the Department of Labor,” he said to those assembled.
Kathleen Culhane, President of NEW, said that there was much to celebrate this 38 th year. “NEW trains 400 women each year, and over 1300 women were placed in jobs in recent years, with equal pay and benefits. As a nation we are doing amazing things. NEW and New York
City are leading the way with these opportunities.”
Jay Kriegel said, “NEW shows that when women are provided with opportunities, they excel. NEW gives them the skills, experience, and confidence to thrive.”
James Mahoney spoke of women trailblazers in the past such as Shirley Chisholm and Sandra Day O’Connor, and now Hilary Clinton. He said that all have been in what has been dubbed “non-traditional” jobs but that the graduates of NEW will bring about a day when that title will
be retired. “I am so proud of our Iron Worker apprentices here today,” he added.
Mary Ann Tighe, who is in commercial real estate, said she wanted to be a “broker” between the graduates and the women who will hire them. She asked the women in real estate and related companies in the audience to stand up and encouraged the graduates to meet them.
Leah Rivera spoke of the rough journey she had growing up in Coney Island and consistently being attracted to things traditionally thought of as “male,” such as woodworking and electronics. She told of one day seeing a flyer for NEW in a phone booth, “and the rest is history.”
The attendees also were shown a film telling the story of Iron Worker Tamek Sellars of Local 46, a single mother who battled drug abuse and domestic violence before finding a career through NEW. Numerous co-workers in the film, as well as her children and mother, sang her praise. Her mother called NEW “a blessing.”
Former graduates among the audience spoke of their experience and aspirations. Ruthgina Desinor, a 2015 graduate, says she now works as a nurse but wants to transition to the construction field. “The program was wonderful, challenging, and I met all types of people from all walks of life,” she said. Dulce Garcia, also a member of the class of 2015, works for NEW now and wants to work for the MTA. Arlene Gratereaux, ’16, is interested in working for ConEd. Stefani Mostarac, ’15, is interested in elevator constructors, ConEd, and the electrician field. “This program got me temporary placements at a call center while I’m waiting to get into the trades. The experience was great – I loved the electrical section – getting the 3-way switch to work was really exciting.”
Graduates currently in positions include Tammy Rivera, ’94, an Organizer with the Carpenter’s Union, who said she was the first female in that position. She said she tries to mentor sisters. Stacy Knutt, ’10, a Local 79 Laborer, said the program was tough, “but I realized everything they
did with me helped me with what I’m going through now, both physically and mentally.” Sarah Pratt, ’15, an Apprentice with Operating Engineers Local 15, is also a Shop Assistant at the NEW woodshop. “There is a sense of community at NEW, rare in a city without much that
empowers small groups. NEW brings people together from every walk of life. It’s also a safe space. I’ve met incredibly inspiring people.”