28 Jan NOT JUST A JOB: Retired Veteran Rebuilds Career With Goodwill Construction Program
Sgt. 1st Class Sucrontay Stanley had plenty of work experience, though none of it was in construction. During 22 years in the military, her jobs ranged from human resources to medical lab tech to assisting soldiers and their families after injury, illness or death.
“I guess you could say I was reconstructing people,” she says.
But in April of 2020, Sucrontay found her own life in need of some reconstruction. After a successful career with both the U.S. Navy and Army, she was retiring. The 43-year-old dreamed of becoming a safety inspector for businesses, having often performed safety oversight tasks in the Army. But moving into the private sector can be daunting for a soldier so long accustomed to military life.
In a program for retiring soldiers at Fort Campbell, Sucrontay learned that Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee offers a four-week Construction and Weatherization Training course. The course covers safety, construction math, use of tools and more. The course is free, and participants receive a $100-per-week stipend and, upon completion, two industry certifications.
Sucrontay knew construction and safety training would help her achieve her goals, and the price was more than right. She checked into similar programs and found they could cost up to $7,000.
At the end of April, Sucrontay launched a business — Home Engineering Services — in Nashville, with a fellow Navy veteran who has construction credentials. Sucrontay’s role would be to supervise subcontractors, but she needed to understand how to correctly complete many types of construction. That cemented her decision to apply for Goodwill’s program.
She began attending classes in July and was pleased to find that she was one of several veterans among a diverse group of students. Right away, she felt she was in her element.
“It was awesome,” she says. “We built storage units and butterfly houses, and it all just felt so natural — like I had been doing it all my life.”
The program’s instructor, Tim Kahn, says Sucrontay was an “extremely astute” student and an extremely hard worker. While attending daily in-person classes, she simultaneously took a virtual version of the class made possible through a grant by Lowe’s Home Improvement.
“She was taking quizzes and tests online while doing the class in person, which was highly unusual,” he says. “She was an overachiever.”
Sucrontay found Tim’s method of breaking down difficult concepts especially helpful.
“When it came to blueprints, a lot of people, including me, got lost in the sauce. I had no clue what I was getting into,” she says. “But now I fully understand. I can pick up any blueprint and read it, whether it’s a structural or HVAC or foundational.”
In the weeks that followed her graduation from the Goodwill program, Sucrontay earned her limited residential contractor’s license. Then, while attending a local civic group meeting, she met a representative from a large e-commerce company. Sucrontay told him about her business, and he suggested that she bid on construction work planned for a distribution center in Mississippi.
After soliciting advice from Tim, she submitted a proposal. Her company won the contract to build a worship room inside the distribution center. Soon, Sucrontay was traveling daily to supervise workers onsite.
That work is now complete, and Sucrontay’s company has now landed another contract remodeling several automobile service centers. Her company has been added to a list of approved vendors for the state, and Sucrontay is working toward approval to work on military bases. She hopes that before long, her company can add safety inspections to its list of services as well.
While eight out of 10 graduates from Goodwill’s Construction and Weatherization Training Program find jobs in the industry, Tim says Sucrontay is one of just a few to achieve so much so quickly. Sucrontay gives the Goodwill program a lot of credit for her success.
“It opened my view to a lot of different things,” she said. “When I start hiring employees, they are going to complete the Goodwill course if they want to work for me. I have been telling everyone I know about it, including veterans.”
As to her rapid transformation from soldier to successful businesswoman, Sucrontay gives credit elsewhere.
“I didn’t expect it,” she says. “It’s just a blessing from God.”