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‘Go for it’: Q&A with Five Women on the Tools

With a high demand for skilled tradespeople in BC and recognizing the power of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, MCABC has reached out to five women on the tools in the Mechanical Contracting industry to shine a light on their successes and how they are making a difference in the skilled trades.

KYM GREEN, FOREPERSON, PITT MEADOWS PLUMBING

What led you to a career in the mechanical contracting industry and what made you choose your specific area?

I was a single mom who needed the steady work hours, reliable paycheque, and solid career path that an apprenticeship offered.  Even though I had no experience in the trades, it was a no brainer when my brother Joe asked me to come join him in the plumbing trade. I had the example of my sister-in-law as a woman in trades.  With her example and the confidence that my brother and my dad (both plumbers) had in my ability to take on this challenge, I knew I could do this. 

What is your current position and what do you enjoy most about it?

Currently I am the foreperson on construction of a new 30-storey tower. I love getting to use my knowledge, problem solving, organizational skills, and experience to guide a team of plumbers and apprentices to build a tower from scratch. Teaching the people who are coming up behind me is an honour I take seriously.

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in this industry?

We are making our mark and changing the narrative that trades are a man’s world.  If you can get connected with other women who are also in the trades, through organizations, or social media and find out which companies are creating equal opportunities, link arms with those women and join the trades.  Support one another and lift one another up.  Keep pushing forward and don’t give up when the job challenges you. 

What do you like best about the industry?

Over the past 14 years in the industry I have had so many different experiences. I have worked on towers and townhomes, a couple hotels, a hospital, low income housing and more. Over the years, there have been two common threads: pride in my work and my ability to answer a problem with the knowledge and skill I have cultivated through my trade. 

VANESSA MCLACHLAN, JOURNEYMAN PLUMBER, DIVISION 15 MECHANICAL

What led you to a career in the mechanical contracting industry and what made you choose your specific area?

To be completely honest I chose plumbing because they were the first ones who called me back for a position! I’m and beyond happy with my decision. I’ve learned way more than I thought I would and now realize how useful this skill set is. 

What is your current position and what do you enjoy most about it?

Journeyman plumber is my current position. I am brand new to being a journeyman but so far I enjoy showing and helping others understand what I have spent the last four years learning.

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in this industry?

Go for it. You absolutely can do it too! Women have a completely different perspective on site and this helps the whole crew and job. You will be noticed and rewarded for your hard work.

What do you like best about the industry?

I feel I fit right in. This industry has helped me quickly move through my apprenticeship, earn a great wage and seeing your hard work in the air or on the ground finished and being used by the new tenants is the best feeling.

MISTAYA VEACH, FIRST YEAR PLUMBING APPRENTICE, NATIONAL HYDRONICS

What led you to a career in the mechanical contracting industry and what made you choose your specific area?

After years of working aimlessly at different jobs, I decided that I wanted to work towards an actual career, something that would provide stable work and a liveable wage. I chose plumbing because I wanted a career that would challenge me and leave room for personal and professional growth.

What is your current position and what do you enjoy most about it? 

I am a first year plumbing apprentice. The thing I enjoy most about my trade is that no two days are exactly the same. It is a dynamic and engaging career, and there’s always something new to learn.

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in this industry?

Don’t be intimidated. It can seem daunting entering a male dominated workforce, but there is a lot of support to help women get involved in the trades.

What do you like best about the industry?

I like that there is so much variety in terms of different types of work. Plumbing is a diverse trade that includes gas and heating. You can work anywhere from hospitals to highrises and even industrial. There all many avenues to explore depending on what interests you. 

STACEY BEATTIE, ESTIMATOR, BLACK & MCDONALD

What led you to a career in the mechanical contracting industry and what made you choose your specific area?

I’ve always had an interest in construction and the industry in general, but never really considered it as a career choice, mainly because I viewed the industry as male dominate and had not had the opportunity to meet any women actively working in the industry. It was the opportunities for growth at Black & McDonald, the support from our management team and the exposure to the many facets of our business that has kept my interest, allowed me to explore the industry and made realize that this is the career path for me. 

What is your current position and what do you enjoy most about it?

I particularly love my role as a mechanical estimator because of the many different projects I get to see in a year.  Every day is different and every project has unique challenges that must be met and overcome.  There is something immensely satisfying about seeing the results of a well laid out mechanical room come to life at the end of a project, knowing that you had a small role to play in its creation. I also really enjoy being part of a team and the talented people I’ve had the opportunity to meet.  

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in this industry

The industry has a lot to offer and is full of people who want to see you succeed.  Do your research and challenge your perceptions of the industry.  With the advancement of technology and its use in the construction process, jobs in the industry are constantly evolving and there are plenty of niche roles out there to suite any skill set.  Have an open and curious mind and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.    

What do you like best about the industry?

I love this industry because of the growth I have been able to achieve and the learning opportunities that have been provided. I particularly love estimating because it gives me the opportunity to look at many different projects within the course of a year, each with its own unique challenges.  I also love being part of a team full of many talented individuals.  It is immensely satisfying to look back on a finished project knowing that I had a small role to play it in its success.

ELIZABETH DUPLAIN, APPRENTICE, DIVISION 15 MECHANICAL 

What led you to a career in the mechanical contracting Industry and what made you choose your specific area? 

After working various jobs for minimum wage or just above, I was fed up and thought I’m worth more than this.  I wanted the ability to run my own business and get a trade that would be useful no matter what happened in the future. 

What is your current position and what do you enjoy most about it? 

I am at the end of my apprenticeship, about to write my interprovincial exam.  I have loved every level of my apprenticeship; you can always expect something different after each year of training.  Never a dull moment and rarely doing the same thing over and over. 

What advice would you give women thinking about a career in this industry? 

I was told you need thick skin and a good partner to lean on when things get tough.  I believe things have changed slightly with the younger crews, everyone helps everyone. If you’re on the site you better be prepared to work and even show up the men you’re working with. 

What do you like best about the industry?  The camaraderie, the absence of cliques, and from day one you’re part of a team.  When you finish a job it’s neat to drive by and say “I helped build that!” 

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