"Working in the trades is not your typical atmosphere. Right now, there is a higher male to female ratio, but don’t let that intimidate you." 

Some people ask what I am doing working in the trades. I’ve tried almost everything else. I’ve pursued different interests and worked in a lot of different jobs but they were all minimum wage and there wasn’t much opportunity for growth. It can be difficult to support oneself on minimum wage.  I needed a skill that would lead me to advancement and perhaps take me on an adventure!

Then I discovered the Women in Trades program. It’s a three-month introduction to trades such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, painting, framing, drywall and roofing, designed to help women develop the basic skills and understanding needed for entry-level work in construction. The course includes life skills, employability development, safety training, and so much more. Near the end of the program, they tested our skills and interests. For me, it’s framing. I like putting up walls and seeing things come together.

The program also included a one-week practicum. I got hired right from my practicum and am currently working full-time as a framer/carpenter. I will soon receive my Y1 Card, which gives me status as a first-year apprentice. Becoming a full Journeyperson takes about four years, but you are continually developing skills and gaining experience. As you complete each school year, you are qualified to do more jobs, leading to more opportunities plus regular pay increases.  My starting wage was $16 dollars an hour, but once I have all my own tools—which are expensive—my wage will get bumped up to $18 dollars an hour. Don’t get me wrong though, you have to work hard for that wage!

If you are considering a career in the trades, it is important to prepare for hard work. You need to be physically fit, get the proper nutrition, and adequate rest. It is like an eight hour workout! You also need to stay focused—this will help you and others stay safe.

Working in the trades is not your typical atmosphere. Right now, there is a higher male to female ratio, but don’t let that intimidate you. The guys are great!  No one has done or said anything inappropriate or disrespectful. In fact, they are more than willing to help and I have learned a “trick of the trade” from every person I’ve worked with so far!

I have never been so happy about my career path as I am now—I’ve found my niche. In construction, you move to different job sites, work on different structures,  and work along side other trades people. I like that you get to flex your brain—challenges arise all the time, so you never stop learning. It’s been really empowering for me and I am grateful for this opportunity.

On that note, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get here...  so, Thank You!

-As told by Jessie to Diane Hill

The Women in Trades program is delivered by the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology and is a Canadian Women's Foundation funded program.