By Allen Allnoch
From her perch on a rise just off Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Kiwanica Gibbs has a sweeping view of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium site. The broad expanse below her is scattered with cranes, construction materials and a bustling army of workers.
Any of those workers who enter by Gibbs’ gate better be properly credentialed and safely outfitted, or they’re not getting in. She may be a female working in a predominantly male industry, but she’s no doormat.
“Kiwanica will put the hammer down as quick as any of the guys out here,” says Danny McCall, safety director for Holder, Hunt, Russell, Moody (HHRM).
Gibbs is a graduate of Westside Works’ construction training and certification program, and a Gatekeeper for HHRM. She checks workers and contractors in and out, ensures they have the proper protective equipment, and generally keeps a sharp eye on the area.
And make no mistake: Unauthorized individuals do try to get onto the site.
“All the time, every day,” Gibbs says. “People knowing they’re not supposed to be on site, people without ID. Mostly they’re just trying to find work. One guy came in, refused to leave, threatened me, and cursed us all out. We just called the police.
“I can handle crazy people,” she adds with a laugh. “I’m used to them.”
Like so many who have come through Westside Works already, Gibbs is grateful for the opportunity and potential it affords. She lives in Vine City and had started taking business administration classes at Atlanta Technical College after losing a previous job.
“Then I heard about Westside Works and decided to take a shot at it,” she says. “I’m glad I did. It gave me a good basic knowledge of tools and skills, and how the construction industry works.”
Indeed, the program offers a powerful combination of hands-on training, tutoring in soft skills such as interviewing and resume building, and interaction with real-world professionals through a daily Lunch and Learn segment.
“I’ve been over there twice for Lunch and Learn,” McCall says, “and to me, the program is amazing. It’s great to see something like this that can prepare people who need jobs. Kiwanica and the others who have come to us from Westside Works have done a great job.”