DES MOINES, Iowa — Perlla Deluca is the owner and CEO of Southeast Constructors. Originally from Brazil, Deluca migrated to the U.S. and was able to create a successful career as a construction worker.
Now, 22 years later, she's found a way to help others do the same.
She says being an immigrant woman with a career in construction has at times been tough as nails.
"Construction has always been a male-dominated industry," Deluca said.
Before COVID hit, Deluca's crews felt the effects of the labor shortage and lack of women in construction.
"Right now, with the labor shortage, everybody's like, 'why not women getting more into construction?'" she said.
As COVID and the labor shortage progressed, so did Deluca's desire to create change. That's when she decided to start an inclusive construction school right here in Des Moines.
"For me, this school is about bringing more women into construction," Deluca said. "That's where my heart lies. But obviously, it's for everybody. We're here to train people at entry level for construction."
The school consists of a 12-week program. Each week, students will learn a different trade that will help them earn certifications, making them more desirable to employers.
"If you come to our school, we can put you on the right path to get that job where you are going to earn more than you're earning now," Deluca said.
League of United Latin American Citizens political director Joe Enriquez Henry said having this school provide certifications for different trades is going to play a significant role for Latinos in Iowa.
"A lot of our people work as apprentices or helpers in those trades, but they don't have the licensing to do the key roles," Enriquez Henry said. "Although I would say that they probably know exactly what to do. But they don't get paid for it, because they don't have the license for it. So it's going to be important."
As for Deluca, this school is a way to show no matter where you come from or who you are, there is a place for you in construction.
"I want to leave a legacy where we can help people in the beginning or right after high school when they're like, 'I don't want to go to college, but I want to have a career,'" Deluca said. "Construction is a career."
50 students are a part of the pilot of the school, set to open in just a few months. Classes start in February.