AWiT Grad Photo with TMEP's Martha MatthewA group of Aboriginal women are feeling confident and excited about new career opportunities after graduating from a program that introduced them to a range of skilled trades.

The Thompson Rivers University program, Aboriginal Women in Trades, featured hands-on introductions to four trades including pipefitting, welding, electrical and construction craft worker.

Students also toured Trans Mountain’s Kamloops Terminal, where they were welcomed by staff and had their eyes opened about the range of skilled trades needed to keep the pipeline operating.

For example, Kamloops Terminal has an industrial computer control system using programmable logic controllers or ‘PLCs’ to regulate the flow of oil through the Trans Mountain Pipeline. For several students, the Trans Mountain tour helped clarify their plans for enrolling in a trade.

“Many of the women were blown away by the room where the PLCs were located,” Heather Hamilton, Manager of Industry and Contract Training in the TRU School of Trades and Technology, said. “PLCs are the brains of the pipeline, and I think many of the women didn’t realize that the electrical trade encompasses handling them.”

Trans Mountain Today recently connected with several of the students as they were preparing to graduate and take the next step into new careers.

Vanessa“I’ve always been fascinated with the trades but I never had any experience with them before, so I thought this program would be a great opportunity” said student Vanessa Bent.

“Being in a hands-on program, getting my hands dirty, was fun,” she added.

Bent said that when she started the TRU program, she was thinking of pursuing a career as a construction craft worker — a multi-disciplined Red Seal trade needed for virtually any construction site. As the 10-week TRU introductory program progressed, she decided she wanted to enroll in an electrical trade foundation program. Vanessa recently found out that she has a seat in the program for August 2016.

“Honestly, it’s the last thing I ever would have thought I’d want to do,” Bent said. “I didn’t think I’d like the electrical trade but as of right now, I’m standing with it. There’s a lot of math, and I like doing math.

“Where I’m at right now, knowing the minimum requirements for doing electrical work at the terminal, it’s definitely something that I would like to work toward.”

CrystalAlthough Crystal Moore found out about the program only a few days before it began, she was prepared to jump right in.

“I’ve done a lot of work around farms and I’ve always dealt with a lot those aspects of the trades in my everyday life, whether it was building something or fixing a fence — all of that kind of stuff. I didn’t know how in-depth we would be getting or how quickly we would be hands-on. Pretty much on the second day, we were welding. It was more than I ever expected.

“Going through the program actually made my decisions about choosing a trade a lot harder because now I’m interested in all of them.

“I really did get a feel for welding — it was a lot of fun. But at the same time I’m looking at carpentry.”

The pipeline terminal tour also piqued her interest in training to become a pipeline coating inspector through the National Association of Coating Engineers or NACE, which is the global authority on pipeline coatings and corrosion control. For the time being, however, she has decided to focus on carpentry and is accepted in the foundation program that starts July 2016.

“I’m hoping that the pipeline goes through because I’d love to work on it, that’s for sure,” Moore said.

AWiTRoxanne John, who is 48, has decided to pursue her Red Seal in pipefitting.

“I am grateful to receive this training and wish I had been able to do this earlier in life,” she said. “Of the four trades, I enjoyed the pipe-fitting and will continue on with this trade.”

John noted that in addition to four trades, the program provided several certifications that prepare her for a career in the construction sector including Construction Safety Training System, Petroleum Safety Training System, Occupational First Aid 1, Transportation, Ground Disturbance, Fall Arrest, Traffic Control Person and HS2 Alive.

“Nothing today would change who I would like to become. I put my all into each course and I have received 100 per cent back,” John said.

RevaReva Choursine already has Care Aid certification and a Medical Office Assistant diploma but “wanted a new challenge in life both physically and mentally.”

The TRU program gave here “a taste test” of four trades, and it was free of financial worries: “My children’s daycare was paid for while I was doing this course. The tuition and books were all paid for, thanks to the sponsors.”

“I came into the program with no experience in the trades industry. I wanted a new challenge in life that involved more hands on experience and working in a fast paced environment.

“The program was definitely rewarding in the end. We were able to see what our hands can do with very little experience coming into a trade. This program gave me a boost in confidence.”

After graduation she decided to pursue a Red Seal in welding.

Choursine believes each grad has a similar story to tell.

“The course opened up a new chapter in our lives for each individual that came into the program,” she said.

Trans Mountain Expansion Project, Employment and Training, has been partnering with Thompson Rivers University and the BC Ministry of Jobs Tourism and Skills Training to provide training opportunities for Aboriginal people interested in working on the project. Training to date includes Women in Trades Training, and Construction Craft Worker. As well, the Government of Canada provides funding through the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund.