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Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Chase your dream – Women in trades

I have often considered the early explorers as being those who had a desire to go just a little further than others, manage their fears and conquer daily challenges that were completely foreign to them.

Changing one’s career mid-life may not present the same challenges and fears as those experienced by early explorers, yet it is not without consternation, especially if you are a woman considering a career move to the industrial trades. Amanda is one such example.

Having raised three children and spent 17 years working in the human sector field, Amanda was not enthusiastic about her job and where it was leading. It was just a means to a paycheque. She would often think back to her younger days of growing up on the farm.

In her youth she was always fascinated by the creative abilities of her grandfather who was a welder and how he could apply his imaginative skills to life.

Amanda asserted, “I loved being with him, helping him and was intrigued by the beauty of working with metal, and his innate ability to fix metal. I just felt a connection to what he was doing. What he was able to do was utterly amazing and I always wanted to have those same skills.”

While working in the education system, Amanda would often see provisional opportunities for youth to enter the trades, but nothing for adults until last year when LNG Canada provided Women Building Futures the funding necessary to deliver a “trades readiness” program for adult women. This program became the pivotal turning point in Amanda’s life.

Today, Amanda is employed by PPM Civil Constructors and is welding on the LNG Load line Trestle project at Kitimat, B.C. Helping build Canada’s largest private sector project while learning a trade is a dream come true.

As an apprentice, Amanda is discovering what it is like to be a welder on a large-scale industrial project. She comes to work each day with the mindset to learn, to achieve and to contribute. Her general foreman has commented on her work ethic and ability to fit in.

He has stated “she just wants to learn – every day and gives it her absolute best effort.” Amanda fully recognizes that a cheerful outlook is everything and states, “I have such great mentors and journeymen leading the way, helping me with my learning goals.”

Amanda is scheduled to attend technical training in 2023. The immensity of this project has exposed her to a world class construction project and has provided this apprentice with an experience that will well position her prior to attending school and serve her well in her new sought career.

This opportunity did not happen by chance. It received the input and full support of many who understand the complexity of trades and the apprenticeship journey.

Key contributors to making an apprenticeship a success story for those who have shown the desire to begin this journey are:

  • Matching the apprentice to a group of strong mentors who have received mentorship training.
  • As a company, staying true to the principles of having “zero-tolerance” for inappropriate behaviour and any who discriminate against others.
  • Support groups such as Women Building Futures and provide employment and apprenticeship opportunities to individuals graduating from these programs.
  • Provide frequent progress reports to the apprentice outlining their growth, strengths and signifying opportunities for growth.
  • Incorporate these workers into the team by having them take on team leadership roles.
  • Understand the technical training curriculum so to align the work-based tasks expected of the apprentice with their level of schooling.

Remember, “someone once opened the door that gave each one of us the opportunity to begin on a successful trade’s pathway, and now it is our turn to do the same.”

Dr. Lindsay Langill holds Red Seal certification in two trades and has a bachelor of education and master of arts degree from UBC along with a doctorate from the University of Calgary. He is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC, director of labour relations for Clough-Pacific, and chair of the JLATA board.

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