In just four-and-a-half months, Candace Walker learned to build a house and moved from minimum wage to a $40/hour job at a major Chicago company.

In January, she barely knew how to use a tape measure. Now, she has a new career as a carpenter with The Habitat Company. She credits her basic certificate program (carpentry) at Dawson Technical Institute, part of City Colleges of Chicago and Kennedy-King College, as the catapult to her success.

Candace graduated high school in Arkansas and moved with her and her two children to Chicago in October 2016. Little Rock didn’t offer the types of jobs that would allow her to take care of her family and she was interested in building houses and real estate.

At Dawson, Candace benefited from one on one instruction, supportive classmates, advising and tutoring. She also learned “everything there is to know about building.” She actually applied for her job at The Habitat Company before her Dawson program ended. She started work three days after her finals were over and just four-and-a-half months after starting the program. Her position entails addressing tenant issues, rehabbing properties, working closely with the Chicago Housing Authority, and servicing carpentry and construction needs.

Candace’s story doesn’t end here, though; she is already saving money so she can start her own company that would buy abandoned properties and fix them up. Her Dawson experience isn’t over either, as she plans to enter the plumbing program in the fall and has her eye on learning more about construction management and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).

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