“Being a single mother, finding reliable childcare was very hard especially during the pandemic” reflected Bayview-Hunters Point resident Deja Wilson. Wilson, like many women, discovered after COVID-19 hit, that in times of crisis, women often bare the most hardships.
“I was able to meet Jessica [Fontenot] who works with the SFPUC, and she connected me to an amazing resource, Children’s Council,” Wilson explained. “That provided reliable childcare for my daughter which allowed me to get to work.”
“Fortunately for the families that we work with and through the hard work of Children’s Council, most clients have achieved a consistent work schedule with only brief layoffs between jobs,” said Zelda Saeli, Labor Relations Specialist with the SFPUC.
Once Wilson had the necessary resources to be dependable at her job, she began to not just survive the pandemic, but thrive through it. Wilson was sponsored by Azul Works into the Northern California Laborers’ apprenticeship program on June 4th, 2020, and within a few months of starting in the field, she was promoted to COVID Safety Compliance Officer under Azul at the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project.
“I make sure everyone is complying with COVID-19 requirements that allow us to work during this time,” Wilson said proudly as she explained her new role. She now gives safety trainings in front of large groups and is responsible for “making sure [staff] know how to properly wear their mask and that they are washing their hands as much as they can, and also making sure equipment is properly sanitized to avoid any potential contamination.” In addition, she coordinates with the contractor and the SFPUC safety management teams to ensure all safety guidelines are met and documented.
“Working here has meant wonders for me and my daughter,” Wilson conveyed.
Construction has one of the lowest gender-pay gaps. “Bills and everything, just life, was becoming overwhelming with being a single mother living in the very expensive Bay Area. With the hours this project has been able to provide, I’m able to be more financially stable for my daughter, without having to be so stressed about finances all the time,” Wilson expressed.
Azul Works’ scope of work was completed in December 2020, Wilson was able to stay on at the Biosolids project with Malcolm Drilling, and she is continuing her journey in the construction industry by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Safety Administration. Wilson credits mentors and positive influences in her life that, “saw something in me I didn’t see in myself”. Wilson’s advice to those wanting to enter the construction industry is, “Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something because they feel like you can’t. Be your own advocate.”
The SFPUC is committed to supporting the communities impacted by its operations. As the agency invests in its infrastructure, it is also investing in local, underserved communities by connecting youth and adults with learning, apprenticeship, job training, employment, and business opportunities. These programs support a strong, inclusive, local economy and a skilled, diverse, local workforce for today and tomorrow. Deja Wilson is one of the many individuals the SFPUC has been able to assist and the agency is proud to share her story.
For the SFPUC, there’s more work to be done and more opportunities ahead. To learn more, visit https://www.sfpuc.org/about-us/careers-sfpuc/workforce-development, https://www.sfpuc.org/construction-contracts/sewer-system-improvement-program, and oewd.org/city-build.