From military police officer to Local 1556 Commercial Diver with Offshore Wind, Jenna Iannielli has been at the forefront of it all. Read about how this former service member became the first female Offshore Wind foreperson in Local 1556 history!
I think the first question on everyone’s mind is how did you wind up stationed at an Offshore Wind plant? What made you decide to pursue that line of work? Surely there are plenty of work opportunities closer to home?
- You’re right about that. I had plenty of work opportunities closer to home in New Jersey. But when the union started recruiting my fellow brothers and sisters for this Offshore Wind work, I jumped! This work will lead to cleaner energy sources, and working here makes an enormous difference.
Okay, and what made you decide to become a dockbuilder in the first place?
- When I graduated high school, I worked in construction for a little while. I loved it, but I felt a powerful desire to serve my country. Temptation gave in, and before I knew it, I was deployed to Germany as a military police officer. A few years later, when I got out, I missed the joy I got from working construction. I loved watching the projects I worked on being built from start to finish. I was chasing that sense of accomplishment I used to feel. I had a friend who was a commercial diver, and his experiences helped spark my interest. I knew this was the field I wanted to pursue, and I used my G.I. Bill to go to commercial diving school. I received my diving diploma from Divers Academy International and immediately started my commercial diving and dockbuilder career!
Did you always work on union diving projects?
- It’s funny you ask that. My first job when I got my diving diploma was nonunion. I didn’t know the differences between union and nonunion sites. I worked at the nonunion site for a few months and earned next to nothing. Even worse, I received no health benefits, safety training, or opportunities for continued education. I realized I wouldn’t get the education or experiences I needed working nonunion, let alone the salary and benefits I deserved. When the opportunity arose to join Local 1556, I jumped at it!
The number of divers in Local 1556 is small, and the number of female divers is even smaller. How has it felt being a female diver in what some would call a male dominated field?
- When I first started working in the union, I might as well have been working in a man’s world. But that was nine years ago. Today, things are different. Over the last nine years I’ve seen more and more females join the union. This is a result of the union increasing recruitment of females. I can say in my own experience, this is a union for everyone. Everyone can succeed here; all you need to do is come ready to work.
What are you most proud of in your career?
- There’s a lot that this union has given me to be proud of, but number one on the list is being the first Offshore Wind female foreman in Local 1556! That’s a dream I never imagined, but through my hard work, I made it a reality! It shows just how far I’ve come thanks to this union’s mentors. I started as an inexperienced female and look at me now! The sky is my limit in Local 1556, and I’m excited to see what I accomplish next!