News & Updates

News & Updates

Trades Training, Career Switch Pays Off for Mendota Mom

Even with two and sometimes three jobs, Nidia Chicas struggled to help support her family.

Nidia had to tell her seven children “no” more times than she liked. She worried about making rent and hated to miss time with her family due to work or exhaustion.

So last year, Nidia took a leap of faith. She enrolled in ValleyBuild’s MC3 (Multi-Craft Core Curriculum) Apprenticeship Readiness training program in its second all-female cohort.

“It was either make a sacrifice and quit my jobs and go for this program or just stay stuck and still struggling,” Nidia said. “So I quit my jobs and I went to do ValleyBuild – and it paid off.”

Today, Nidia is a first-stage apprentice and taper in the finishing trades union (Painters Local Union 294). She’s making good money and is even a poster child for the ValleyBuild NOW (Non-traditional Occupations for Women) program, which she graduated from last year.

ValleyBuild NOW is scheduled to start its third cohort on May 28; Nidia is one of the successful tradeswomen featured on recruitment posters and a billboard. She speaks on behalf of the program and also works to spread the word in Mendota, where she lives.

“It’s changed the lives of me and my kids,” Nidia said of the training. “I feel less stress – I feel no stress at all. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay rent, I don’t have to worry if I’m going to be able to make my car payment. It’s a big change.”

Before her career switch last year, Nidia and her partner struggled financially. She was a part-time assistant cook and secretary at the local school district, while he works in an onion factory. Three months of the year, Nidia also worked nights during the tomato harvest.

Still, it wasn’t truly enough. “I was looking for something that was going to provide better for my family,” she said.

Through Workforce Connection, Nidia found the ValleyBuild program that trains men and women for good-paying careers in the construction trades. Though her partner worried about lost income, Nidia knew she had to take the chance to change their lives.

Still, it wasn’t easy even with the program’s help with mileage and other financial assistance. “The whole time I was in the program we struggled a lot,” she said. “There were times I felt like giving up.”

When her car broke down, Nidia was lucky to borrow a truck from a friend so that she could continue in the class. After graduating last summer, she went into a transitional job – then within a few weeks, she was pulled into her current union.

Nidia had been thinking about iron workers but is happy with her choice. “I love my trade, I love my job. I love what I do.”

While Nidia is only the second woman in the union – and usually the only woman on a job site – she feels well-prepared for the industry. During ValleyBuild NOW training, several women in the trades came in to talk about their experience and positive changes in the construction industry.

“It relieves a lot of worry for us going into the trades,” Nidia said of those women. “If they stuck it out during the tough times, and let us know that it’s better now, then we can handle what’s now.”

She believes the training program is definitely worth a leap of faith. These days, Nidia spends more time with her children – ages 2 to 11 years old – and can say “yes” more often than “no.”

“I tell people if you have that little ounce of faith, this program can take you far,” Nidia said. “If you have a little faith in this program, it can take you places.”

Even so, “the program can’t do everything for you,” she added. “They give you the door and you have to open that door.”