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By Jane LaTour
Sisters in the Brotherhoods
Photo by Jon Bloom
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Praise for Sisters
“Truthfully, I just happened to be looking for something else to do,” she said. “So I was at the State Building and on the
directory they had ‘Apprenticeship and Training.’ The person in there was telling me: ‘It’s in construction and there are the
different trades.’ I had no clue of any of these trades. He said, ‘What was your best subject?’ And I told him math. He said,
‘Since your best subject in school was math, you should consider going into the electrical trade.’ ”

He advised her about the application process and recommended that she seek some assistance from the Urban League. She
followed his advice on both counts: “Once I found out about the apprenticeship program, I was application 701, and they
were only taking 50 in. Then I went to the Urban League and we went through the mock interviews. The Urban League
provided me with pre-apprenticeship training and information.”

“Back then, only two women were in the trade down there and in my class there were five of us—total. Really, I was a last-
minute type of thing . . . Two African American men dropped out, so they had to pick up two more people of color or some
type of minority, one way or the other. So they were able to pick me up and then they picked up another white guy because
I filled two minority spots.”
Joi Beard was born into a blue-collar family in Kentucky in
1958. Her father worked in a foundry for International
Harvester and was a union member until he became a
supervisor for the company. Her mother stayed home to raise
Joi, her three sisters, and two brothers, until the youngest
daughter went to school.

Of average height, Joi’s lithe frame is a container of compact
energy. In 1979, she entered the Local 369 IBEW
apprenticeship program in Louisville. She described her
serendipitous introduction.
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Joi Beard