Graduate Stories

 

Audrey
Wetaskawin
Ready-Mix

Meet Audrey (RM 2)

Ready-Mix Driver, Wetaskiwin Ready-Mix

When Audrey came to Women Building Futures (WBF) she was a student support worker making barely above minimum wage. Prior to that, for about 30 years, she worked on her family’s sod farm operating a tractor and the forklift, and driving school bus while her children were young.

Audrey wanted to improve her financial situation and was looking for a change and a challenge. She chose ready-mix so that she could continue to live and work in her community. She already had her Class 4 license and the ready-mix program seemed like a natural progression to her. And, she was ready to learn something entirely new.

Audrey is now working for Wetaskiwin Ready-Mix, learning on the job and doing so well that she was given a $2.00 an hour raise after only two months.

Her new boss recently told her that he thought her presence was having an effect on many of the drivers in that they had a new respect for women working in the industry. Audrey found that to be very empowering. She also says that for the first time in her life she is doing something totally for herself.

 

Erin
MetalBoss Technologies

Meet Erin (JWS 41)

Journeywoman Welder, Metalboss Technologies

When Erin Meetoos first walked through the doors of Women Building Futures (WBF), she’d pretty much made up her mind as to what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. “I was planning on pursuing a career in carpentry but I had no idea of the options that were available, so I enrolled in the Journeywoman Start program. The hands-on part was really educational because I got to learn a little bit about everything,” she explained.

Today Meetoos, who also completed NAIT’s Multi-Media program and recently applied for the school’s Business Management Program, is a multi-talented journeyman welder with a good job and a future full of promise. “I’ve been working for MetalBoss Technologies in Edmonton for more than a year. Pursuing a career in the trades is the best thing I’ve ever done and I would highly recommend it to every woman seeking a new challenge.”

“My dreams are being realized and my future is more secure each day,” she smiled. “I’ll always be thankful to those who helped me achieve my goals, those like Totem Welding who accepted me near the end of my WBF training and enabled me to complete my two-week practicum, my family and my current employer, who provides ongoing incentive, encouragement and opportunity.”

 

Galina
TFL Industrial

Meet Galina (TFL 1)

Apprentice Welder, TFL Industrial

Galina graduated from the first Women Building Futures (WBF) TFL Industrial Pre-employment Welder training program in early spring 2014. Galina was one of the eight women who were offered employment and apprenticeships with TFL at the end of the program.

Even though Galina has only been at TFL for a few months, she’s already found financial freedom, has started to pay down her debts and is able to pay her bills without worry. She’s enjoying the work and learning new things every day.

In Galina’s words, “I’ve never had a job of where I’d get up every morning and look forward to going to work. This is definitely the first place where I take pride in what I do.” She adds, “Starting my apprenticeship is the best decision I’ve ever made, it’s a completely different type of work than I’ve ever done before, but for sure it is the most rewarding.”

Galina came to WBF from the retail industry where she was earning minimum wage. She now works the night shift at TFL Industrial with an increase in her income of 172 per cent. Now that’s impressive!

 

Geena
Hyduke Energy

Meet Geena (Welding Basics 2)

Apprentice Welder, Hyduke Energy

Geena moved to Alberta from Nova Scotia, where there weren’t many job opportunities. After working as a waitress, a bartender and a cashier and hating all of her jobs including the minimum wage pay, she found Women Building Futures (WBF). Geena enrolled in the Welding Basics program and loved the hands-on aspect of the program.

As Geena says, “Being 4’11 and 100 pounds I was really concerned if I could even physically do the work. Through my shop time and my job shadowing experience I found out I was more than just capable, I was actually pretty good at it!”

Geena is a registered apprentice welder working for Hyduke Energy and will begin her second year as an apprentice in October 2014.

When talking about what the program meant to her she says, “I’m not a shy person but when it came to applying for jobs (especially in a field I had no experience in), I had no confidence. The welding basics program gave me the experience with tools and welding that I needed to get my foot in the door without feeling unprepared.”

 

Heather
Clark Builders

Meet Heather (JWS 61)

Apprentice Carpenter, Clark Builders

Heather came to Women Building Futures (WBF) with a clear goal in mind, to be a carpenter. She has a university degree, and already had a career, but became bored with the job and really wanted a career change. With the support of her family, she decided to make the leap and apply for the Journeywoman Start Program.

Heather is now apprenticing under the mentorship of another JWS Grad and Journeyman Carpenter at Clark Builders in Edmonton.

As Heather says, “Looking back, I can’t tell you how valuable our training at WBF was. From the trade skills we learned, to some of the soft skills like working with others and trying to anticipate what you can and should do next, having the proper attitude, the proper way to lift and carry—even the little things like signing in and out every day and filling in the hazard cards—I do that every day and I’m so glad I got into the habit of it at WBF.” She adds,” I am even so thankful that I wore my boots and Carhartts every day so I could get comfortable in them and have less to adjust to on the site.”

Heather’s enthusiasm for her new career is contagious, as she tells us, “I’m livin’ the dream!”

 

Jackie
Alco Gas & Oil Production Equipment Ltd.

Meet Jackie (JWS 24)

Journeyman Welder, Alco Gas & Oil Production Equipment Ltd.

When Jackie moved to Edmonton in 2007, she was working as a physical care aid for people with disabilities, but was struggling to make ends meet. Jackie tried working in administration at an office, but it wasn’t really for her. She’d always been a tomboy, liked to roll up her sleeves, get her hands dirty and see the results of her labours.

The radio advertisement for Women Building Futures piqued Jackie’s interest. She came to an information session with an idea of going into heavy equipment operation but was drawn to welding. Jackie graduated from the Journeywoman Start program in 2007 and was indentured as an apprentice shortly after. Five years later, in 2011, Jackie completed her apprenticeship and is now a certified Journeyman welder making more than three times her wage as a physical care aid.

Jackie has also inspired her two daughters; one is indentured as an autobody painter and her other daughter is thinking about becoming a mechanic.

Jennifer
Jetco Mechanical

Meet Jennifer (JWS 45)

Apprentice Plumber, Jetco Mechanical

In January 2011, Jennifer made the call that that would change her life.

Jennifer had some experience helping her mother, who did home renovations. She enjoyed the hands-on physical work and decided that a career in the trades would be the right choice for her.

Her time at Women Building Futures (WBF) provided her with a safe place to explore a variety of skilled trades in construction, and she thrived in the program. As the program progressed, so did her confidence and self-esteem. She decided that she wanted to be a plumber and after graduating from the program, immediately secured employment. For the first three months, Jennifer worked in their warehouse learning the various tools needed for the trade, and she is now getting field experience. Jennifer is now a registered apprentice plumber.

Jennifer said that she chose WBF because she didn’t find the things offered by the program and facility anywhere else. She also found the Decision Making Workshop was exactly what she needed to honestly look at a possible future in the trades for herself.

 

Kim K.
Slugo Electric

Meet Kim K. (JWS 58)

Apprentice Electrician, Slugo Electric

A few years ago, Kim Koski volunteered to help a family build an off-grid house and realized she really wanted a career in the trades.

One afternoon, Kim struck up a conversation with a lady who mentioned Women Building Futures (WBF). A few days later a friend suggested Kim interview an electrician to see if she would be a good fit, and the following week she attended a Career Decision Making workshop at WBF. “The application process, interview and funding all fell into place so quickly, I just thought it was meant to be,” said Kim.

When Kim signed up at WBF, her focus was to be an electrician. “My goal was to become familiar with the trades, brush up on my basic math and science, and build up my strength and endurance,” said Kim. “As a result, I feel more competent on the job site now that I am familiar with what is expected of me as a tradesperson.”

As a result of the Journeywoman Start Program, Kim is on a completely different career path and glad to be where she is today. “There are many proud moments so far, I have the full support of family and friends, and I’ve overcome my fear of using power tools,” said Kim. “I am so excited to be a first year apprentice electrician.”

 

Kim S.
TFL Industrial

Meet Kim S. (JWS 56)

Structural Steel and Plate Fitter Apprentice, TFL Industrial

When Kim came to Women Building Futures (WBF) she was working as a bartender. She was determined and motivated to increase her financial security.

Through her research, Kim found Women Building Futures. In Kim’s words, “The four months of school was the most intense, motivating, and the best adult time of my life. I learned so much about the program and about myself and what I can accomplish.”

Kim is now an indentured first year structural steel and plate fitter apprentice working for TFL Industrial. “I was the first WBF graduate to work there, and I won’t be the last.” says Kim. “WBF has given me the tools and the skills I need to be a confident and proud tradesperson. I feel very proud of myself to have come so far in a short amount of time. WBF changed my life for the better, and it will change the futures of other woman as well. I am also proud to be a mentor to any other WBF women coming into the trades.”

 

Lita
Tahk Projects Ltd.

Meet Lita (JWS 58)

Apprentice Steamfitter-Pipefitter, Tahk Projects Ltd.

Lita came to Women Building Futures (WBF) from Prince Albert, SK with some experience working in a tool crib, but what she really wanted was the hands-on training, the safety tickets and the math upgrading that WBF offered in the Journeywoman Start program.

Coming from another province presented challenges for Lita, she needed to apply to the program, apply for funding, and arrange to relocate to Edmonton. Her perseverance paid off, Lita was able to successfully complete her application, the WBF rigorous assessment process, interview and funding requirements all by long-distance.

Pipefitting is Lita’s trade of passion, and now that she is a registered apprentice steamfitter-pipefitter she would like to become a foreman once she gets her Journeyman ticket.

When asked what it’s like on the job site, Lita smiles, “I’m pretty easygoing, I have a good sense of humour, and I’m a real people person. My crew sees that I take initiative, do extra work and keep busy during downtime, so I’ve become the go-to person on the site. I like that.” And she adds, “My mother is so proud of me.”

 

Lori
Weinrich
Contracting Ltd.

Meet Lori (HEO 6)

Heavy Equipment Operator, Weinrich Contracting Ltd.

When Lori came to Women Building Futures (WBF) she was at a point in her life that she had low self-confidence. With Lori’s farming background operating tractors, combines and grain trucks, you would have thought that she could have become a heavy equipment operator on her own. However it was that lack of confidence that prevented her from pursuing her dream.

Women Building Futures gave Lori’s confidence back to her − her friends and family have seen this transformation firsthand. As Lori said, “I have seen a metamorphosis in myself that I never thought possible. When I travel by jobsites, I now proudly exclaim that I can operate that particular piece of equipment. How absolutely empowering!”

As a result of the formal training, mentoring and support that Lori received from WBF, Lori can now proudly hand her résumé to future employers with confidence in her abilities.

Her long term goals are to become financially self-sufficient with a stable income. She also has a great desire to become a role model for other women entering into the trades.

 

Lorna
Source Electrical Services Ltd.

Meet Lorna (JWS 54)

Apprentice Electrician, Source Electrical Services Ltd.

When Lorna came to Women Building Futures (WBF) she was an underemployed accounting assistant looking for a career change. She enrolled in the Journeywoman Start program after having a conversation with her eldest son. She wanted him to become an Electrician but he wasn’t interested. He turned to her and said, “Why don’t you become an Electrician?” And she said, “Why don’t I?” So the very next day she started looking into how she could get into the trades. She came across a brochure from Women Building Futures and made an appointment to apply to the program.

Lorna is now a 2nd year apprentice Electrician. It took a lot of commitment and dedication but she proved to her co-workers that she was capable of doing the job.

Lorna says, “I think the most important learning for me at WBF was the course on Workplace Culture. It helped me to come to the job well prepared to fit in and stay focused on the job at hand. It really does make a difference to have that training.”

“I have been able to prove to my employer that hiring a woman makes good sense. I work for Source Electrical Services Ltd. and I am proud to be one of their employees.”

Lucy
Western Truck Body

Meet Lucy (JWS 53)

Sheet Metal Worker Apprentice, Western Truck Body

Since Lucy was a teenager she was interested in working in construction. Twenty years later the time was finally right to pursue a career as a sheet metal worker.

Lucy applied for the Women Building Futures (WBF) Journeywoman Start program. Throughout the 17-week program, Lucy’s confidence grew even more as she progressed through the workshops, consistently receiving positive feedback from all of her instructors. Her positive attitude and work ethic never wavered. She focused on finding work as a sheet metal worker, and immediately after the program, started working. Three months later, her probation period complete, she was ready to be indentured by her employer.

When talking with Lucy, you can hear the excitement in her voice as she describes how she is now doing something that she’s wanted to do for years. Lucy’s quiet strength and never-failing determination is inspirational to all women considering a career in the trades.

 

Michele
Imperial Oil

Meet Michele (HEO 5)

Heavy Equipment Operator, Imperial Oil

Michele came to Women Building Futures (WBF) after finding our website on the Internet. Michele is from Montreal, Quebec where she was a head designer and pattern maker in the clothing industry and eventually owned her own boutique. She closed the boutique in 2011 so that she could leave Quebec and move to Alberta to work in the oil and gas industry.

Michele is a mature, capable woman who knows what she wants and was prepared to do the work needed to achieve her goals. She was prepared to take the risk of leaving her home province to make the move to Alberta.

She had some experience driving farm equipment but Michele really wanted the challenge of operating heavy equipment, making her an ideal candidate for our HEO program. She was capable, enthusiastic, very quick to grasp instructions and able to execute well above her experience level.

Michele was offered a position with Imperial Oil driving a heavy haul truck for the Kearl Lake Oil Sands Project in August 2012. She enjoys working in the oil patch and living in camp. And the great starting wage!

 

Pamela
Suncor

Meet Pamela (HEO 6)

Heavy Equipment Operator, Suncor

Pamela came to Women Building Futures (WBF) after being self-employed for 18 years. She was struggling to make ends meet and she was ready for a career change.

Pamela came into the WBF Heavy Equipment Operator program with clear goals to work as a heavy equipment operator in the mining industry on a fly in, fly out camp rotation. She plannned to work as a heavy haul driver, pay off her debts and become mortgage free.

Pamela has high praise for the WBF learning model. She found the class structure, on-site skills training, and the protocol and procedures regarding the application process prepared her well for her new career.

As Pamela said, “I value the Women Building Futures program approach and ethical virtues as they are aligned with my own—I work proud, work strong and am working to build a future. This program has given me the confidence, security and support that I need for the next phase of my life.”

 

Roberta
Britco Building Innovation

Meet Roberta (JWS 23)

Apprentice Electrician, Britco Building Innovation

Roberta came to Women Building Futures (WBF) after hearing a WBF radio advertisement. At the time, she was the primary caregiver to her aging parent – and was looking for a better way to support her family.

Roberta proved to be an outstanding student. Her first job was working on the construction of the new WBF Suncor Energy Training Centre as an electrical apprentice with Mogo Electric. She is now a second year apprentice electrician with Britco Building Innovation.

In 2012, Roberta won two awards, the Evraz Inc. NA Canada Apprenticeship Bursary and a Shell Canada Trades Bursary, and was chosen to participate in NAIT’s television advertising campaign.

Roberta has quickly become an excellent role model for Aboriginal women in construction. She returns to WBF on an ongoing basis, speaking to women in WBF classes on strategies to becoming a successful tradeswoman.

 

Sheila
BFI Constructors

Meet Sheila (HEO 5)

Heaby Equipment Operator, BFI Constructors

Sheila is a 5’1” dynamo who came to Canada from the Philippines in 2008 to work as a nanny in Fort McMurray. The family she worked for was so taken with her talents and work ethic that they recommended and supported her to come into the Women Building Futures (WBF) Heavy Equipment Operator program.

A quiet and focused student, Sheila was intent on learning every detail and skill offered. Her skills in operating equipment developed so quickly that she earned the praise of her instructors.

After graduation, Sheila returned to Fort McMurray and began her career as a heavy equipment operator with BFI Constructors. She started on the dewatering crew and within two weeks completed the necessary skills to acquire the Mine Drive Form, allowing her to drive the duty vehicle on site when needed. In addition, Sheila’s foreman has already done a work appraisal in which he praised her work ethic and affirmed to all concerned that she was the type of motivated and enthusiastic worker the company needs.

Quite the success story!

 

Star
Double G Mechanical

Meet Star (JWS 57)

Apprentice Plumber-Gasfitter, Double G Mechanical

Star always knew she wanted to be in the trades; she loves the physical work and the feeling of accomplishment. She had heard about Women Building Futures (WBF) on the radio, but it was her sister who attended an information session and then pushed her to apply. What really grabbed her attention about the WBF Journeywoman Start program were the two weeks of safety tickets and the one-week workshops of the seven most common trades. This allowed Star to get the hands-on experience that she was looking for.

Star took a practical approach to the trade that she chose. As she says, “I thought about my circumstances and living situation and picked the most appropriate trade accordingly, which was Plumbing, for reasons such as: there is always work, it’s one of the higher paying trades, it’s in town and the hours work with my lifestyle.“

Star loves working on the job site; her biggest challenge at first was being under estimated when it came to heavy lifting, but the guys she works with now understand how strong she really is.

Her proudest moment as a result of her training with WBF is that she has been put in charge of the finishing stages of the project she is currently working on. This has made her very proud.

Tamara
Great Canadian Solar

Meet Tamara (Electrical Basics 2)

Apprentice Electrician, Great Canadian Solar

Tamara first heard about Women Building Futures (WBF) through a radio advertisement and applied to WBF because she felt it was a good first step to getting a job in the trades. Her goal was to get a job as an electrician— she succeeded and is now a registered first year apprentice at Great Canadian Solar installing residential and commercial solar arrays. She found it was what she wanted, but even better, she hadn’t thought of solar as an option for electrical work and thoroughly enjoys it.

Her favourite part of the program was the hands-on skills training and learning to operate aerial lifts which she uses every day in her job. Tamara no longer feels that going to work is meaningless.

Tamara’s proudest moment as a result of her training was helping her father with a frantic phone call asking “Where do the white and black wires go?” when he was changing an electrical outlet.

When asked what she would say to other women considering this program, she responded, “If you want some very handy safety and operator certificates, learn how to use basic tools, and excellent foundation of knowledge in voltage, wattage, power, amps and a generous handful of other useful things then this is the program for you.”

 

Candace
Tervita

Meet Candace (IOL HEO 2)

Rock Truck Operator, Tervita

When Candace applied to the Women Building Futures (WBF) heavy equipment operator program she was working as an Administrative Assistant and had already reached the top of her pay grade with no opportunity for advancement.

Everything changed for Candace once she was in the program and got out onto the WBF training site and was operating equipment. She is now working for Tervita and happily operating her truck, working every day to improve her skills.

When asked what has changed for her as a result of the WBF heavy equipment operator program, Candace says, “My financial situation; my bi-weekly pay cheque has more than doubled. My work schedule has also changed, I used to work in an office all week and as a server in a lounge on the weekend just to make ends meet, so I really had no down time. My days are long now, but I get seven days off a month to do whatever I want.”

So far, Candace’s proudest moment was being accepted into the highly competitive WBF heavy equipment operator program. Once she completed the program she knew she had a brand new set of skills to move her forward into the future and to start achieving some of her personal goals such as buying a house.

 

Jolene
Richardson Mechanical

Meet Jolene (JWS 60)

Aspiring Apprentice Plumber, Richardson Mechanical

Jolene overcame many challenges to get into the Women Building Futures (WBF) Journeywoman Start program.

In spite of obstacles, Jolene persevered, kept a positive attitude and completed the program.

She is now working as the safety representative at Richardson Mechanical, implementing a new safety program, training staff on WHMIS , and implementing and completing the Workplace Safety Certificate of Recognition (COR ) program for the company.

Her employer will be indenturing her as a plumbing apprentice in summer 2014.

In Jolene’s words, “My life has become much richer, and it’s very nice not to be struggling, but actually progressing and working toward my dreams.”

In 2014, Jolene was the recipient of a grant from Suncor Energy Foundation to help with tuition and living expenses while completing her 17 weeks of training at WBF.

 

Kendall
Can-West Electrical Contractors

Meet Kendall (JWS 60)

Apprentice Electrician, Can-West Electrical Contractors

Kendall first heard about Women Building Futures (WBF) on the radio. When the timing was right she finally decided to apply to the Journeywoman Start (JWS) program. Kendall knew from the beginning that she wanted to be an electrician and although she considered other trades she stayed with her goal to become an electrician.

Kendall’s favourite part of the program was the hands-on training. She also found that the fitness component really helped increase her physical endurance on the job site.

Kendall enjoys the independence her job gives her. As she says, “I love being able to fix things and problem solve. There is a lot of variety and the work is like doing a puzzle.”

When asked what her proudest moment as a result of her training so far has been, Kendall replied, “Getting my first real job! And knowing that someone would hire me. I’m in the trades now!”

In 2014, Kendall was the recipient of a grant from Northern Gateway Pipelines to help with living expenses while completing the 17 weeks of training at WBF.

 

Angela
NTL Pipelines Inc.

Meet Angela (ARHCA HEO 7)

Excavator Operator, NTL Pipelines Inc.

Angela Carter had worked most of her career in retail and banking before she drove to Edmonton from Moncton, New Brunswick with hopes of securing work as a laborer. Instead she found the Women Building Futures Heavy Equipment Operator Program.

When asked why she applied to the program, Angela replied, “I like getting dirty and I’ve always been fascinated with big machinery and equipment,” she says. “I just never had an opportunity to get on one and operate one until now.”

Angela highly recommends WBF and says it provides a wonderful opportunity for women to get their feet wet and decide what area of construction is right for them. As Angela said, “The program gives you a taste of different equipment so you can see what you like better. For myself, I was not interested in the excavator at all. But when I got on it, within two minutes, I loved it! It became a part of me.”

Now Angela’s goal is to have a lifelong career in construction. Her current job is her first construction job and she is also the first female operator her company has hired.

“No pressure there,” Angela laughs. “I was a little bit nervous when I showed up for work the first day. But the guys are great. We’re all one crew. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to work with.”

 

Christina
Imperial

Meet Christina (IOL HEO 2)

Haul Truck Operator, Kearl Oil Sands, Imperial

After years of working for a temp agency in secretarial and call centres and barely making enough to sustain herself, Christina applied to the WBF Imperial Heavy Equipment Operator program for a chance at a better life.

When asked why she applied to the program, Christina replied, “My goal was to create a better future for myself,” she said. “And getting into the program was the first step. WBF screened us pretty good, we all got along very well and I finished the program with some good friends.”

Christina is getting used to the long hours and shift work at Kearl and really appreciates the safety culture. “They really do mean safety first,” she says. “Everything is taken seriously, especially the safety and happiness of their employees.”

Her proudest moment was when she recently received the Golden Steering Award. “It made me feel really good that someone as new as me who still has a lot to learn could receive recognition for doing something as simple as choosing my personal safety above all else. My training started at WBF and Imperial Oil practices the same standards.”

“WBF gave me that leg up that I needed. I am positive they will do the same for many other women looking for that next opportunity to change their lives.”