If Sandra Hendrickson had known in high school what she knows now, she would have entered the building trades a lot sooner. After graduating from Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights, Sandra married young and quickly had two kids. But when she and her husband got divorced, she needed to find a way to support her family. "I had no education and no skills," she recalls. "I've done the secretary thing, I worked in a dry cleaners, a grocery store, a deli, odd jobs where you don't make much money."
Then a friend told her that the laborers union was looking for applicants. "I was in my 30s, but I figured it sounded like good work and good pay. So I went to the Local 172 union in Folsom, applied and was accepted," says Sandra. "That was more than three years ago."
Today Sandra, 41 and a Pennsville resident, has completed 3,000 hours of her apprenticeship and needs only another 1,000 to graduate to journeyman status. She has had plenty of on-the-job experience, often working outside re-asphalting roads and helping to install water drains. Nearly 99% of the time, she says, she has a shovel in her hand, but she enjoys the work. "Building the Borgata in Atlantic City was my first big job," Sandra explains. "I loved it. I was on the landscaping crew, which is like being in your garden every day. Since then I've been with a company that does paving and pipe and all kinds of different work. I'm learning lots of skills."
Her new career in the building trades has brought Sandra and her kids, ages 15 and 21, more stability, along with other take-home advantages. "I learn things at work every day," says Sandra. "I put a grill outside at home and built a paving stone surface underneath it, which is something I've done on the job. I was pretty proud of myself."