Meet Fafi: The Steel Yard’s Workforce Coordinator

Earlier this summer the Steel Yard welcomed our newest member to the Team. Meet Fafi Rivera, Workforce Coordinator!

SY: Hi Fafi, could you tell us a little about yourself? Where’d you grow up, stuff like that?

F: Providence, I’ve actually lived here all my life. Well, I was born in NY but I don’t really remember it. I love it here. I was raised in the Southside and it really shaped who I am today.

SY: How’d it shape you?

F: Well growing up as a kid I spent a LOT of time at the recreational center in my neighborhood…

SY: Which one?

F: The Davey Lopes Recreation Center… later on when I got to high school, I didn’t have a job,  so I decided to start volunteering there… helping kids with their homework and as a basketball coach. I was there so often they eventually hired me.

SY: Do you ever miss it?

F: Oh, I’m still involved at Davey Lopes, I still volunteer there!

SY: That’s amazing! Now, can you tell me a little bit more about how you got involved in the Steel Yard… did you ever imagine that you’d be coordinating a job training program at an Industrial Arts Center? Do you see yourself as an artist?

F: The Steel Yard is the first time I really made art…  I feel like when you do art- you tap into something else, ya know? When I was in high school I didn’t get much opportunity to do artistic things and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So I joined the Navy….

SY: You were in the Navy?!?

F: Yeah, totally- when I graduated high school I went straight to bootcamp. I figured, my uncle was in the Navy for 20 years so I thought I’d try it out. Unfortunately due to medical reasons I couldn’t stay in.

SY: What’d you do next?

F: I decided to try out the Community College of Rhode Island… I spent 2 semesters there…  but still wasn’t sure if it’s what I wanted. One day, I was just doing my laundry and I looked up and saw the Steel Yard’s Weld to Work flyer… I filled out the application and very soon after spoke to Margo, the Workforce Coordinator at the time… that’s how I got involved with program as a participant.

SY: Can you tell me a little bit about that experience? What was Weld to Work like for you?

F:  I had worked in construction before… and I knew that I liked working with my hands but I didn’t know how to weld when I first got here. A lot of the other participants had signed up because they were hoping to find a job at Electric Boat but I was just really excited to learn something new. The first day Luke Montez, the instructor, showed me how to run bead and I right off the bat was helping the other students.

SY: Sounds like you picked it up pretty quickly! Can you tell me about some of your challenges, anything you were surprised by?

F: Honestly, when I thought about Welding I really only thought about running beads. But there’s so much that goes into prepping the materials, and finishing- grinding, cutting, etc.

SY: Can you tell me a little bit about the program?

F: So, Weld to Work is the Steel Yard’s one-week paid job readiness program. The program primarily focuses on basic metal working (hand/power tools, studio safety practices, MIG welding and plasma cutting). All of this leads up to the students working on actual contracted pieces to fabricate and getting paid for it. The whole program gives people a chance to learn a new trade- learn hard & soft skills, communication, teamwork. At the end of it, you might hate welding but you can take away something.

SY: SO, you’re NOW the Workforce Coordinator of the program! Congratulations… can you tell me a little bit about your role in the program?

F: My role is making sure there are as many opportunities possible for the participants. I am an advocate- and I’m here to help!

SY: I know you’ve only just recently started, not trying to grill you, but can you tell me about your hopes & dreams for Weld to Work? What do you want to see?

F: I really do wish I had no known about the program straight out of high school. I think there’s a way to bring in younger folks looking for these kinds of opportunities as well. I would love to see us teaching more TIG and Stick Welding… plus working with other kinds of metals. These things will help connect participants I also want to see the program become even more accessible… especially partnering with other organizations, and overcoming language barriers.

SY: Do you speak any other languages?

F: Yes, I’m bilingual- I speak both Spanish and English. Where the Steel Yard is located, our direct community is largely Spanish speaking. I want to make sure everyone can get connected to Weld to Work.

SY: Anything else you’d like to see for the program?
F: Thanks to Real Jobs RI we’ve been able to invest in state of the art equipment for Weld to Workers to work with… including downdraft tables and additional ventilation structures. I am looking forward to the planned studio rennovations and restoration will help us expand our programs/ get more tools. 

SY: Fafi, we’re so excited to have you on the team and we know you’re going to do a phenomenal job here. Before I let you get back to work- any closing remarks. What do you want people to know?

F: Whether you’re looking for employment… or just something new (that’s what did it for me)… Weld to Work is for people…. who maybe in this life never got a chance or need a second chance… or maybe just looking for direction. 

SY: Thank you Fafi!

F: Thank you!

For more information on the Weld to Work program, shoot our Workforce Coordinator an email, or give the office a call at 401-273-7101.

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