Aster worked for a decade as a graphic designer in Northern California, spending over ten hours a day in front of a computer — that is, until her company downsized. “My company outsourced a lot of labor,” she said. "And finally it was my turn and I got laid off too. I took that as a sign that I had to change my career."
Without a job, Aster used the internet to research different programs that would set her on the path to a successful career change. It was there that she learned about the Trades Orientation Program.
But while the program was exciting for Aster, she admitted it wasn't always easy. “For a while, though, it was tough because I'm a girl, and there aren't a lot of girls in the construction industry,” she said.
As a woman, Aster has had to combat many stereotypes from family and friends, many of whom don't understand her decision to pursue carpentry.
Surprisingly enough, however, Aster also had to fight the stereotypes she had with herself. Before applying to TOP, she thought that strength was the most important factor in using the tools of manual labor. She soon found out she was wrong. “Before I went to the carpenter's union, where we did the training, I didn't know that hammering was about technique, not strength,” she reflected. “That was very encouraging, because I'm small and I'm short.”
Through TOP, Aster found the confidence to pursue a new career path. She applied to multiple apprenticeship programs and was accepted into the Carpenters, where she began her 6-week pre-apprenticeship training.
But just as she was in the final week of the Carpenters program, Aster received the results of her application to the Plumbers. Out of hundreds of applicants, she earned one of the top scores. They asked her to start immediately.
With two offers now on the table, Aster made the decision to go with the Plumbers. She began working as a Pipe Trades Apprentice, starting at $26 an hour, and loves the work and all the new skills she is learning.
Aster feels strongly about participating in job training programs like the Trades Orientation Program, and encourages others to do the same. "If you have the strength and will to do it, it's possible," she says.