Featured Use Your Life Award
Jeff Bezos, amazon.com
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Linda Butler was working in a blue-collar job when she thought of a way to help hundreds of low-income moms get high-paying jobs that usually go to men. Linda uses hard hats, power saws and blow torches to help struggling women build a brighter future for themselves and their children.
Linda created Tradeswomen of Purpose/Women In Non-Traditional Work (TOP/WIN) a program that trains women to qualify for construction and skilled trade jobs so they can support their families and break free of poverty.
The Solution — Give Women the Tools
TOP/WIN program participants are women who are unemployed, on unemployment or on welfare. "We focus on low-income women because we think that one of the quickest paths off of welfare is to get a little bit of training, and then move into these higher wage, higher skills jobs," says Linda.
After completing the six to nine month TOP/WIN training program, women can expect to make the average starting wage of $11/hour as plumbers, heavy machine operators, electricians, machinists, carpenters and construction workers and as Linda says, "kiss welfare goodbye."
A TOP/WIN graduate says, "I'm a better mother now than in the past... I've doubled my income. My daughter looks at me and she's very proud — and I am too — of the person I've become."
TOP/WIN is a highly structured program with daily courses in math and reading. Because most employers tend to think women aren't strong enough for jobs that require physical labor, TOP/WIN includes classes on physical conditioning. One program graduate, says, "When I walked in that door, I was on welfare, I weighed 275 pounds... When I walked out that door as a graduate, I weighed 220 pounds, I was making $16 an hour and I was doing something I really wanted to do."
The program teaches women "survival skills" which cover a wide range of topics from "self-care" to credit counseling, health and safety issues. The courses also prepare women for the workplace environment and help them to stay in their jobs.
Linda says, "[TOP/WIN graduates have] good jobs, they're happy, their families are happier. They're making good wages, they're getting a little piece of the American Pie."