Member Spotlight: Donna Belt and Zahnika Olsen

Mother and Daughter find stability through the Carpenters Union.

Mother and daughter Donna Belt and Zahnika Olsen were at different points in their careers, but their paths eventually merged after they both enrolled in the Carpenter Trade Preparation (CTP) program, and later joined the Carpenters Apprenticeship. CTP is a six-week free, albeit unpaid intensive training course that prepares individuals for a Carpenter Apprenticeship. 

Zahnika completed CTP after a family friend informed her about the training and benefits offered. While the thought of a college education was appealing, the dread of taking on enormous student loan debt wasn’t. She opted for a career in the trades, where now, as a second term Apprentice, she found another way to secure a good job with benefits, and without the costs it would’ve taken to go the traditional academic route.   

Having watched her mother juggle low-paying jobs as a single parent throughout her upbringing, Zahnika knew that her mother would thrive in a Union career and suggested that she enroll in CTP to better her chances of changing her career and improving her income. Donna was timid about joining the program at first. Even though she had some drywall experience, the leap from full-time work to a full-time training program made her feel financially insecure.  

Still, Zahnika encouraged her mother to invest in the training, noting the tradeoff would eventually pay-off. After seeing her daughter’s weekly paystub, and quickly calculating the cost of time it would take to make the same amount, Donna got creative.She saved as much as she could and used her tax refund to cover her expenses during the course. Shortly after, she joined the apprenticeship and started earning Union wages and benefits; a living wage for the first time and it was life-changing for someone who struggled for years.  

Both women acknowledge the heavy labor and grit required to make it in the industry, but they find ways to encourage each other to forge ahead on their respective paths. Membership in a Union often entails the fringe benefit of making strong connections with fellow members and these two women didn’t have to go far to find that added layer of solidarity.  


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