California is in a building boom right now, with state and local leaders working around-the-clock to ensure we are providing safe, affordable housing, commercial development, and infrastructure work for the disadvantaged – to California’s communities. But all too often we focus on the “Big Wigs” involved in that effort, and not the everyday Californians, notably the hardworking men and women who put hammer to nail, building our neighborhoods from the ground up.

Last month, I had the privilege of introducing you to a sterling example of that success – Ms. Louaddie Meadows, a single mom in Sacramento who found her calling in electrical work by hanging around her father and later faced challenges that left her homeless. Through an incredible collaboration of The Salvation Army and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC NorCal), Louaddie was able to rise like a phoenix and gain the training, education and confidence needed to become what she is today: a successful electrical trainee at Royal Electric in Sacramento. She is on her path to bigger and better things, and we celebrate and salute Louaddie for her heartwarming example!

Another amazing story of someone who is building his own life as he builds our community is Nathan Juarez, a native and resident of Salinas. Because his father was in the Navy, Nathan’s grandparents played a central role in raising him and his brothers, and he realized early on, “I had to become a leader pretty fast in life.” At eighteen, he got his start working in retail, then held a seasonal position at the county registrar’s office. Nathan also pursued his education at the local community college.

When he realized he wanted to marry and start a family, Nathan began seeking out other career growth opportunities. A family member suggested electrical work but reminded Nathan, “It’s lots of hours, a good career, but you need a good head on your shoulders and lots of math.” Nathan realized then and there he was ready for the leap, and began as a trainee in Salinas, working production lines of major agricultural companies. After an on-the-job injury, he was out of commission for about eight months, only to find that he would be let go upon his return. But, Nathan did not give up on his passion for the industry, and found a construction job through the local One-Stop Career Center in Salinas, where he learned carpentry.

During that time a friend told Nathan about the electrical training opportunities offered through ABC NorCal’s apprenticeship program. Nathan said that his friend told him, “If I can do it, you can do it” and gave Nathan the application to fill out. Nathan said, “That was a changing point in my life.” He began work with Johnson Electronics in Salinas working on fire alarms, networking for schools and other projects. Ensuring a well-rounded on-the-job experience, Nathan was also placed at American Incorporated out of Visalia, working on new construction of ranger stations in Soledad and then worked for other ABC member firms in the Central Valley and Central Coast working on residential electricity and water treatment facilities. After completing his State and Federal approved apprenticeship, he was hired by Helix Electric, an ABC member and major national construction firm, and then PSR Electric in Salinas, where he has worked since early October. Nathan said he would like to someday pursue a contractor’s license, but definitely stay within the electrical field. “There’s always lots of electrical work out there.” He enjoys the work and really appreciates the apprenticeship training he received at ABC NorCal, saying that the group he trained with is like a family to him “and we stay in touch to this day.” Through Nathan’s passion for the industry and training, he has personally worked to recruit a number of friends and family into the ABC NorCal programs.

As I have stated previously, the success stories of Nathan and Louaddie are indeed heartwarming, but we need to work hard to ensure we are paving the way for more of these journeys for many, many more Californians. The Golden State is struggling to meet the demand due to a critical shortage of skilled talent. Between now and 2020, the demand for craft professionals is staggering – nearly 20,000 electricians, more than 7,500 painters, and almost 100,000 general laborers are in need.

At ABC NorCal, we are working to effectively recruit, train and prepare people of all ages for careers within the construction industry. Our State and Federal approved apprenticeship programs in various trades prepares more than 400 apprentices with more than 44,000 hours of schooling and working over 490,000 hours in the industry on an annual basis. We enjoy a big tent and open door to anyone who wants to pursue such an opportunity. Students earn as they learn with no student loans incurred, receive great health benefits and a great chance to network. Most importantly, we are inspiring folks like Nathan and Louaddie to motivate others to find and follow these successful career paths.

Might you or someone you know be interested in such an opportunity to “Earn, Learn and Build,” go to In the meantime, enjoy “Careers in Construction Month” –  and be sure to thank your neighborhood “hard hats” next time you see them!

Michele Daugherty is the President & CEO of Associated Builders & Contractors Northern California