“My life literally did a complete flip flop, and it’s been a blessing,” said Akeethia Brown, a one-year member of Local 49.
Brown, who currently works for Lunda Construction Company as a crane operator, began her interest in heavy equipment when she was working part time in the maintenance department at Summit Academy.
“I would watch all of these women enter into the program and graduate, and when you’re working in maintenance you kind of get to eavesdrop into the classrooms and learn a lot,” she said.
“So one day I was listening in on the heavy equipment class, and I got to see what they did,” she added.
Brown eventually entered into the program, graduated and was hired on with Lunda shortly after graduation.
Brown described her first day working as a crane operator “overwhelming, but exciting.”
“My first day out here I felt like a little bug…Everything was so different, and it was my first time involved in anything construction related,” she said, “But everyone here is so helpful and encouraging.”
Brown said what she loves most about the job is how much she gets to learn, and grow her skill set as a crane operator.
“When I go home at night I can say that I’ve at least learned three new things that day,” she said, “To me, that’s what life is about.”
Brown also is excited about the opportunity to take more classes at the Training Center.
“I plan on taking as many classes as I can at the Training Center,” she said.
Since the apprenticeship program can be spread out over the four years, and is very adaptable to member’s schedules, Brown said it still takes commitment to finish.
“There’s a lot of certifications, and it definitely takes dedication,” she said.
Brown said her main inspiration for beginning her career as a heavy equipment operator is her daughter, Samari, and being able to provide for her.
“I walked into my daughter’s classroom one day, and all of her friends who are little girls came out to me and we’re so excited and said, ‘Wow! That’s so cool your mom is in construction!’”
“So it’s not only cool that I’m inspiring myself, but I can inspire younger girls to show them that they can be in this field,” Brown said.
Brown said that the health care benefits through the Operating Engineers Local 49 Health and Welfare Fund has also greatly improved her family’s quality of life.
“The health care with the union (Local 49) it’s amazing,” she said.
When Brown compares her life to what it was even just a year ago to what it is like now, she said that her life has changed dramatically for the better.
“Sometimes I really feel like this is a dream, I like everything I’m doing out here in the field, and as long as I enjoy what I’m doing that’s really all that matters at the end of the day,” Brown said.