Mittie and Chauncey small2cropBy Dr. Mittie Cannon, Director of Workforce Development for Robins & Morton My unexpected story is one of strength in adversity and the dedication to follow my passion. As a small-town girl growing up in Baxley, Ga., I was raised on hard work, harvesting sweet potatoes for a place to stay and “all the food I could eat.” It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted a rewarding job full of opportunity, so I headed to college to pursue a career in the medical field. One of my first jobs out of school was intended to be a stepping stone to pay for medical school. However, I soon found myself managing a drug testing lab on a construction site. After a short time working near the construction gate, I noticed that very few women ever crossed that gate. This sparked my curiosity about the industry. I later married an electrical engineer who understood my interest in the industry. I read books that taught me how to perform the basic duties of being a journeyman electrician’s helper on a job site. Eventually, I convinced my husband to allow me to work as his helper. Accomplishing this task was easier said than done. Part of the agreement with my husband included accepting all responsibility for finding a client who would accept our husband-and-wife team. DSC_0152 small2cropI made call after call to companies that were advertising a need for craft workers. Rather than lose hope when my job search didn't initially yield results, I let the challenge fuel my determination. After more practice and persistence, I finally landed a job for us! We relocated immediately from Charleston, S.C., to a job site in Baton Rouge, L.A. As I look back, I couldn't be happier that my unexpected journey led me to a rewarding career full of opportunity in the construction industry as opposed to the medical field. Here are five inspired lessons that I can offer women entering the construction industry:
  1. Never give up – passion fuels your soul.
  2. Always seek out opportunities for learning.
  3. Learn from the mistakes of others and take note of the experiences of other trailblazers.
  4. Create opportunities for other women, and give back by helping others. That’s how you get your blessings.
  5. Learn to recognize opportunity – attend workshops (such as Engineering News-Record’s Groundbreaking for Women in Construction) and conferences, and pay attention to your surroundings.

This week, the National Association of Women in Construction is holding its 59th Annual Meeting and Education Conference in Indianapolis from Sept. 3-6, 2014. This year’s conference celebrates the unlimited possibilities within the construction industry, the Association and among women. Dr. Cannon will share her story and promote recruiting women in construction as part of NCCER’s presentation, “The Time is Right for Women to Take the Lead” on Friday, Sept. 5. Dr. Cannon’s full story will be featured in the book, Unexpected Pathways: The Journeys of Women in the Workforce. The book presents stories about the career pathways of 23 multi-generational women representing diverse occupations and backgrounds.  Their stories reflect the stories of many women, expressing the intimate connection between one’s career pathway and life journey. Each story and the inspired lessons offered by chapter authors, encourage hope and inspiration to women. For more information or to contact the author, Anne Sourbeer Morris, Ed.D., please visit

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.