MASCI 2019 Apprentice of the Year: Shandra Dunn from Dan's Excavating

MASCI 2019 Apprentices of the Year - Shandra Dunn

We love highlighting hardworking individuals in the construction industry.

Shandra "Faye" Dunn, from Dan’s Excavating, has worked as a Construction Craft Laborer/Road-builder for four years. On December 10, 2019 her hard work, dedication, positive attitude and perseverance were rewarded by being chosen by the Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee, Inc. (MASCI) to receive the extraordinary honor of being names the 2019 Michigan Apprentice of the Year!

We caught up with her and asked her to reflect on her time spent working in construction. As a self-proclaimed tomboy, Dunn enjoyed playing in the dirt and building things as a kid. She is happy to have found a position where she can pull on those fond childhood memories. Dunn feels like a career in construction was a perfect fit for her because when you work in construction, coming home dirty isn’t frowned upon. Dunn's story didn't start out with rainbows and butterflies, but her path to success in construction is inspiring to say the least!


Before joining Dan’s Excavating, Dunn had spent 8 years incarcerated, she was homeless and hoping to find work to get back her son. She attended a job fair for returning citizens and little did she know that her future was about to be changed forever.

In her previous jobs Dunn had worked in property preservation. The experience she gained working in residential construction allowed her to bridge the gap to where her skillset is now, and enabled her to find a job in construction with better wages and benefits.

After completing the apprenticeship readiness program Access For All, Dunn was hired by Dan’s Excavating at graduation and couldn’t be happier. Working in construction is a perfect fit for Dunn because it's where she says she can be her true self.

Being a woman in construction comes with its judgements and assumptions. Dunn wants to set the record straight and say it’s a myth “that all women in construction hold the stop sign.”

As a 46-year-old woman who’s worked in the industry for four years, she’s held several titles, none of which included “sign-holder.” She personally has worked as a road, bridge and wall builder, a concrete finisher and a Journey-person laborer. On any given day, as a woman in construction, she can be seen building major roadways like I-75, I-94, M-59, not holding a sign.

When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Shandra said it's seeing the finished product of a job well done. And knowing that she had a hand in building a major bridge or roadway is another one of her favorite parts of the job.

She further explained that, “having a structure that my son will someday look at and say ‘my mommy helped build that,’” is another favorite aspect. Not all moms can tell their children they helped build the infrastructure thousands of people use every day, and that’s OK. But it is just one more thing that makes working in the construction industry worthwhile.

Having found success working in construction, Dunn would like to share some advice to the younger generation and others considering a career in the field. What many people may not know is that knowing a skilled trade can help you not just in your work life, but also your home life. Many times, when learning a skilled trade, you learn skills that can be used around your home, doing handy work or fixing problems that arise. Instead of hiring someone, often times you will have the ability to be self-sufficient and do it yourself!

Aside from being handier, learning a skilled trade can set you on the path of earning a handsome wage. And in many programs, you can begin earning a living wage while training to become a Journey-person. From there, as a Journey-person specifically you can take your license and work all over the country or around the world! And once you’re done working, you’ll have a paid pension to help support you during retirement.

Working in construction comes with its misconceptions, but once you get past those you realize it can be one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Building things in your community that help support growth is priceless, so if you're interested, don't hesitate to take the leap into construction, Dunn believes you won't regret it.

Michigan Construction is here to let people know just how awesome and rewarding a career in construction is. We are always looking for honest feedback from seasoned professionals who love their job and can speak from experience. Click the button below if you would like to share your story with us or learn more about partnership with Michigan Construction.


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