feat. Bridget Booker
As a child growing up in Peoria, Bridget Booker never imagined herself as a union tradeswoman, but career paths are rarely straightforward. “Growing up I always had a passion to own a business and play basketball,” Bridget began with a smile.”I graduated from Woodruff High School and attended the University of Mississippi briefly. After leaving Ole Miss, I became a licensed cosmetologist and practiced that for several years.” Looking for something more, in 2009 Bridget participated in the Highway Construction Careers Training Program (HCCTP), coordinated by Illinois Central College, that exposed her to all the opportunities offered through the construction trades, jump-starting Bridget’s successful career. “After completing the HCCTP I began a three year apprenticeship with the Ironworkers Local 112. As an ironworking apprentice I developed a great reputation, leading me to eventually become a well respected journeyman, and beyond that, the first African American, female journeyman at the Ironworkers Local 112,” Bridget beams.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of being the first African American female journeyman and foreman in the Ironworkers local 112, says Bridget. “Breaking this barrier is a signal that the atmosphere in the construction trades is changing.” Through hard work, determination, and perseverance Bridget Booker is continually working to recruit other women and people of color to the work that she loves. “In fact, I’ve encouraged two more African American graduates of the HCCTP program that are now apprentices in the Ironworks 112; overall, in the Ironworkers there are six African American male journeyman and one African American apprentice,” Bridget states. “We’re always trying to improve these numbers by educating people on what the construction trades offer, had I known about the trades years ago I would have joined then and encouraged others!”
As you may have pieced together by now, Bridget enjoys a challenge. So much so, that as her next goal she is looking to start her own contracting company. After attending the recent International Woman’s Conference Bridget was selected out of 12 other applicants in her district to receive sponsorship and support in starting by own company! When asked which skills were the most important for success in the construction trades, she had this to say, “The most important skills for a successful career in the trades are to be willing to learn new things constantly, have a great work ethic, be on time and dependable, with a good attitude and the ability to work on a team”
For those women and women of color who may not know what the opportunities available through the construction trades, Bridget has some advice: “Explore. Start researching construction trades careers to find one that could be suitable to you, that there are many different avenues in construction to explore; persevere and never take no for an answer. Life is not worth living if you are not living out your dreams, so use every opportunity as a stepping stool until to achieve those dreams.” For those interested in learning more about HCCTP programs or the union trades careers you can contact Bridget here.