In May 2022, Sara S. found herself burdened with the emotional and practical toll of a divorce and the financial strain it had brought. The upheaval had led Sara and her two young children to relocate to her mother’s home. Faced with the new responsibilities of being head of her household, Sara soon realized that conventional career paths were limiting her opportunities. That’s when she connected with Norwescap and our Career and Life Transitions Center.
Engaging with the dedicated Career Counselors and Case Managers at the Career & Life Transitions Center (CLTC) offered Sara a sanctuary of support, empathy, and unbiased guidance. Within this judgment-free zone, she could brainstorm solutions to her newfound challenges. Drawing from her recent life experiences, Sara was resolute in her desire to independently provide the best possible life for her children, but more common career paths did not seem to be a fit for her. As Sara worked with Norwescap’s CLTC team, they began to explore the idea that a non-traditional career path, one not commonly pursued by women, might be the key to her future. Sara felt ready to embrace an unconventional path and reshape her destiny.
The Drive to Redefine Careers
Women’s considerations for non-traditional careers often stem from various motivations. For one, they strive for equitable compensation. Unlike traditional female-dominated fields, non-traditional careers frequently offer better pay, aiding in narrowing the gender pay gap. Furthermore, these paths often provide enhanced opportunities for career progression. Non-traditional sectors, in contrast to traditional roles often confined with limited upward mobility, offer women the potential to ascend into higher-paying positions and leadership roles.
The appeal also extends to personal fulfillment. Women breaking into male-dominated domains often find satisfaction in shattering gender norms. The accomplishment of overcoming stereotypes and barriers brings a unique sense of pride. Certain non-traditional sectors, such as construction and skilled trades, also provide a stronger sense of job security. The stability offered by these industries attracts women seeking reliable employment. Collectively, women are reshaping the workforce by confronting gender stereotypes and striving for parity.
A New Journey Takes Shape
Empowered by these considerations, bolstered by the CLTC team and supported by educational grants from Norwescap, Sara embarked on a transformative journey. The opportunities provided by Norwescap CLTC allowed Sara to pursue a commercial driver’s license (CDL) through specialized training. She then pursued further education, learning to operate vehicles transporting hazardous materials—a critical skillset.
Obtaining a CDL in New Jersey involves a series of steps, commencing with the acquisition of a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) via a written knowledge test. With the CLP in hand, practical training follows under the supervision of a licensed CDL holder. Successful completion of a comprehensive CDL skills test, encompassing pre-trip inspections, vehicle controls, and on-road driving, grants eligibility to apply for a CDL from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). For transporting hazardous materials, a Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement requires additional steps, including background checks, fingerprinting, and a written HazMat knowledge test.
There are no gender restrictions on obtaining a CDL or HazMat endorsement. Women have not only entered but thrived in the predominantly male-dominated trucking industry, with the right training, skills, and determination. The path to success is open for any woman seeking it – and Sara took to the path with resolve.
Illuminating Encounters and Triumphs
During her CDL journey, Sara noticed a unique camaraderie among the women working at the motor vehicle counter in the CDL office. Their unwavering encouragement and warmth stood out. The atmosphere seemed to brighten whenever she entered, a testament to the rarity of women pursuing CDL licenses. In their light-heartedness, they playfully remarked that it was because “the boys don’t pass the test the first time!” Sara defied the odds and emerged victorious.
Sara’s achievements went beyond passing the tests. Armed with new skills and unwavering confidence, she ventured into a realm traditionally dominated by men—the operation of heavy equipment. Sara’s boldness bore fruit as she secured a position at a company, realizing not just employment but a meaningful livelihood. Her sustainable income has empowered her to provide for her children and herself with newfound freedom, independence, and fulfillment.
Paving the Way Forward
Sara’s story exemplifies resilience, determination, and the transformative power of seizing unconventional opportunities. Her journey resonates as a testament to the potential inherent in everyone, regardless of gender, who dares to defy norms and pave the way for a brighter future. Sara’s triumphs remind us that with the right support, skills, and mindset, barriers can be broken, and the path to success can be illuminated.
posted by Dawn Hartfelder – updated 8/25/2023
- To learn more about Norwescap’s Career & Life Transitions Center check out our webpage here: Career and Life Transitions Center (norwescap.org)
- To learn about other Adult Education services provided by Norwescap check out our webpage here: Adult Education (norwescap.org)
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