ShaQuaya Justice is a Toledo-based Third Year Apprentice who entered the construction industry in her thirties. Originally from Detroit, Justice needed a way to support her four children while going through a divorce. Carpentry quickly came to mind.
“I’ve always loved to create and build,” Justice says, adding that she learned by example through her father, a non-union residential carpenter.
Justice found her apprenticeship through Carpenters 351, the Toledo-area Carpenters Union. Also known as Local 351, this group was created nearly 150 years ago to support the hardworking carpenters in Northwest Ohio. She has experienced firsthand how their efforts support individuals, especially someone like her who is raising four children amid a career change.
Organizations like Local 351 help carpenters from all backgrounds and life stages. The local chapter connected her to the Sisters of the Brotherhood, an organization in which the female members of carpenters unions throughout the country support one another.
“We’re all in different aspects of life,” she says of the 23 local women. “We have our local meetings every first Tuesday of the month and encourage one another on a regular basis.”
These regular check-ins and peer counseling have been especially beneficial in a year like 2020. In unprecedented times like these, community support from organizations like Local 351 is all the more important. The current state of the world in the midst of COVID has led to some long hours for Justice. But even the long days and the ever-changing work, Justice wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love the daily challenge. It’s amazing,” she says. “It’s physically and emotionally challenging. There’s never a boring day.”
Challenges abound, sure. But all she can focus on is the reward for putting in good work.
“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it because it pays well. You can take care of your family, your children, and provide a future for yourself and your family.”
Even beyond her paycheck, Justice says the rewarding work itself makes it all worth it for her.
“You get to be a part of something bigger. You get to see everything that goes into a project from the ground up.”
When asked what she’s currently working on, we were surprised when she replied, “Right now, we’re working in the middle of the river. That’s really cool.”
Justice hopes everyone can see the great life individuals can create with a career in carpentry.
“I want to encourage other people to consider construction, starting at a young age.”
This isn’t just a desire for her and the future of carpentry. She takes action to inspire the next generation of carpenters. Justice volunteers at her local library, where she teaches kids carpentry. For the adults, she wants everyone to know that carpentry is a viable career option.
“Construction is a wonderful field to get into,” she says. “There are so many different avenues: you can be a laborer, operator, ironworker, carpenter…”
…and that’s just the beginning.
If you’re in the Toledo area and are interested in creating a new career as a carpenter, rather than make yet another job jump, visit the Carpenters 351 website here.