When Lakeisha Lockard decided to move from her native Pittsburg to Atlanta in summer of 2014, she had no idea what she would be doing for a living. All she knew was she was ready for a career change after spending 20 years in the medical field.
Her choice of Atlanta, where she had a cousin, turned out to be fortuitous. Just as she arrived, Westside Works was launching. She had given herself a month to find employment; within two weeks, she was enrolled in Westside Works’ Construction Group No. 2.
Westside Works offers instruction in a variety of disciplines, but Lakeisha chose construction after talking to some students in Group No. 1. “When I came in to apply,” she recalls, “I met some other girls who were doing it. They said, ‘Go for construction. You can do it.’”
Lakeisha completed the four-week curriculum and graduated from Westside Works in August 2014. She accepted a job offer from Inglett & Stubbs Electrical Construction, which assigned her to its work on Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The nursing assistant-turned-electrician quickly found her new line of work to be a challenge.
“My first year was rough,” Lakeisha says. “It was so different from what I was used to. I was dirty and sweaty all the time. I lost a lot of weight. And I had to get used to working with guys all day. There were plenty of times when I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this.’”
Lakeisha laughs when recalling one of her early adventures, learning to operate a scissor lift. “I fell out of it three times, because I didn’t let it all the way down,” she says. “I was confused about what was going on, but as I continued to work and watch other people doing it, and then having a chance to do things myself, I learned a lot.”
After persevering for a year, Lakeisha says she told herself, “Well, I made it. I might as well keep going now.” Along the way, she’s become increasingly confident with wiring, outlets, lighting and other electrical work. The light bulb has come on for her, literally and figuratively.
“I remember working on some lights,” she says. “When they first let me work by myself and I was able to actually tap some wires together – knowing that I had a part in putting the switch in, connecting the lights and understanding how it all worked, that was exciting.”
Since then, says her supervisor, Lonnie Block, “Lakeisha has taken the initiative to work independently, when her skill level will allow. She displays a willingness to learn and helps without complaint. I look forward to working more with her and in her continuing success in her desire to learn a valuable trade.”
The light bulb moments also have included a bit of self-discovery: “I realized there was a part of me that really enjoyed working with my hands,” Lakeisha says. “I wasn’t aware of that before; this helped bring it out of me.”
As the old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” For Lakeisha, her new venture has brought great gain.
“It has challenged me in so many ways,” she says. “To be open to new challenges, to be open to new people, to be open to new places. It’s kept me from staying in this little box – it’s helped me to come out and just live more. I’ve found joy in it.”
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