The US Department of Labor announced that Fresh Start Women’s Foundation is one of five nationwide recipients and the first and only Arizona-based organization to receive its Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant. Fresh Start will be awarded $542,358 and will use this money to support women in pursuing sustainable careers in non-traditional fields, such as technology and the trades.
In Maricopa County, statistics show that 13.6% of women overall and 39% of single moms live in poverty. Careers in IT/Technology and Construction/Related Trades have the potential for high wages and career advancement, but women are historically underrepresented in these jobs. When women secure and maintain these nontraditional careers, their financial trajectories can change dramatically. For example, Fresh Start recently graduated 12 women from one of its non-traditional occupational training programs (Semi-conductor Manufacturing) in partnership with Intel and Mesa Community College. The average annual income of these graduates when they started the program was $28,000 and their average starting wage after job placement was $48,000.
“We are grateful to the Women’s Bureau and the Employment and Training Administration at the US Department of Labor (DOL) for awarding Fresh Start the funding to expedite our work in empowering underserved and at-risk women toward success in technology and the trades,” Fresh Start CEO and President Kim McWaters said. “We know that when you lift a woman out of poverty by giving her access to skills and training that allow her to earn self-sustainable wages, you change her life, her children, and generations to come. We appreciate the support of employers and educators who are partnering with us in this life-changing work and encourage others in the community to join us.”
The grant, administered by the DOL’s Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration, will provide Fresh Start the opportunity to expand enrollment in technology and trades programs. In fiscal year 2022, the nonprofit served over 3,100 women, including 140 women through this new program. They aim to connect 400 women to the program’s workforce training opportunities this fiscal year.
“As part of our effort to build an economy that works for everyone, the department has applied a worker-centered approach to address barriers for women entering apprenticeship programs and non-traditional occupations,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
WANTO grants support women’s participation in fields in which they have traditionally been underrepresented, such as finance, technology, construction, manufacturing, energy and transportation. A portion of the grants will also provide support services such as childcare, transportation, tuition, and work-related gear.
Within this program, Fresh Start is continually looking for new education and business partners to provide Fresh Start women access to education and employment opportunities that will allow them to earn sustainable wages and transcend the cycle of poverty. For more information on Fresh Start please visit www.freshstartwomen.org.