Holland College Blog

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Welding program sparks interest of Trade HERizons students

with 8 comments

One of the HERizons participants tries her hand at welding.

 

At the age of 29, Hollie Myers was losing hope of ever finding a job that would support her and her two small boys. Raven Nichols, 24, was feeling pretty much the same about the prospects for her and her daughter. So were 32-year-old Lynn Bradley, mother of four, and 28-year-old Paschale Matthews, mother of a little boy.    

For various reasons the women had all but fallen off the radar. Unable to find permanent employment or underemployed, no longer eligible for employment insurance benefits, sometimes living on social assistance, their futures looked less than rosy. The notion of returning to school to get training was almost unthinkable. There were just too many barriers to overcome.    

Their circumstances are frighteningly familiar. It’s the same situation many of women across the Island find themselves in. With their day-to-day living expenses consuming all of what little income they have, the possibility of returning to school to earn a credential and start a career almost inevitably sink below the horizon. With so few options, it becomes difficult for people to imagine how their lives could be different, and so it’s difficult to develop a plan that will enable them to move forward.    

Or that has how it has been in the past. Now there’s a new program offered by Women’s Network PEI which has enabled these four women and seven others to explore non-traditional careers in trades and technology. Through Holland College programs, Trade HERizons allows participants to explore their interests and create educational pathways and economic well-being.    

It’s not just about providing women with experiences that will enable them to start planning a future (as though that weren’t enough); it’s about meeting the labour force needs of the province. Shortages are predicted for the skilled construction trades and technology occupations on P.E.I. in the near future, so these women are exploring career opportunities in areas where work will be available.    

“We are really excited about this project because it allows women the opportunity to find a career that pays well and will allow them to create a livelihood for themselves. The Province of PEI has been an excellent partner because they recognize that it is important to help reduce barriers to women’s participation in the workforce. They also recognize that this program helps meet the upcoming labour shortage in skilled trades on PEI,” said Sara Roach-Lewis, Trade HERizons project manager.    

Lynn, Hollie, Paschale and Raven in the welding shop.

 

For Hollie, Raven, Lynn and Paschale, HERizons has given them the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on activities that give them a sense of what careers in different fields would be like. After participating in carpentry, wood manufacturing – cabinetmaking, automotive technology, wind turbine technology, construction technology, architectural technology, welding, and computer information systems, three of the four have decided that they want to return to the college to enter the Welding Fabrication program.    

I dropped down to the Georgetown Centre recently to discuss their experience in the HERizons program and their plans for the future.    

“This was my last kick at the can,” Hollie explained, adding that at the time she was at home with a new baby, and felt her future looked dim.    

She said she finds welding almost Zen-like.    

“You start something at the beginning of the day, and by the end of day, you’re done. You’ve accomplished something.”    

No matter how satisfying motherhood may be, I think most parents would agree that taking care of young babies can be a seemingly endless blur of bottles, diapers, and dirty laundry! For Hollie, the ability to find an opportunity to move forward was inspiring.    

“Now I want to get my Red Seal,” she said decisively.    

All four are very clear about what they want, how to get it, and why they want it — beside the prospect of good wages.    

Lynn, Holly, Paschale and Raven

 

For Hollie, it’s the thrill of finding something to be passionate about. For Paschale and Lynne, it’s about job security. For Raven, it’s the creative aspect of metal fabrication. A quiet, artistic young woman, she said choosing to go into the HERizons program dealt the final blow to her relationship.    

“My boyfriend didn’t want me working in an all-male environment,” she said. But his disapproval was not enough to keep her from signing up. Raven’s mother was her role model.    

“My mom’s a mechanic, so it was no big deal to her,” she explained. But she noted that quite a few of people around her predicted that she would fail. For her, that’s strong motivation to succeed.    

And while some of their friends may have been sceptical about their ability to succeed, Welding Fabrication Learning Manager Craig Boudreau said the four adapted well to the program.    

“We had them sit in with or regular classes and work along side our students in the general shop areas,” Learning Manager Craig Boudreau said. “I think this went very well for both our current students and the women seeking an understanding of what welding is all about. The women were pleasantly surprised at the welcome they received in the college’s trade programs.”    

“The instructors have been great,” Hollie said. “They’ve given us no special consideration, and we didn’t want any.” The others agreed. For the    

three days, the women sat in on classes, and worked alongside students in the welding shop.    

“It’s surpassed our expectations,” Raven added.    

The students have been equally as welcoming, showing the women the projects that they were working on and talking about the program.    

It’s surprising to me that after all these years, it is still a rarity to find women working in the trades. Currently there are only 49 women registered with PEI apprenticeship in non-traditional trades. With the current and predicted labour shortages, this is the ideal time for women to take a serious look at the salaries and job security they can find in the non-traditional fields.    

Paschale welding in the shop.

 

Hollie, Raven and Paschale are considering taking the Welding Fabrication program at the college. Two of them are taking upgrading through Adult Education to ensure that they enter this program, or any other, with the strongest prerequisites possible.    

After their three days in the Welding Fabrication program, they returned to the classroom to complete the 14-week program. They will spend the next few weeks involved in labour market research, attending gender and diversity in the workplace workshops, developing their portfolios, enhancing their computer skills, and earning certification in WHMIS, Occupational Health and Safety, First Aid, and CPR.    

After spending an hour with this fearsome foursome, I have no doubt that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to! I look forward to seeing Hollie, Raven, and Paschale back at the Georgetown Center in the near future. Meanwhile, Lynn is considering a career as a correctional officer.

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Written by Sara Underwood

May 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Staff, Students

8 Responses

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  1. The Trade Herizons sounds like a really neat program. What an excellent solution to the shortage of tradesmen—tradeswomen!

    amanda rolins-cheverie

    May 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm

  2. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net

    Coizobeesonia

    May 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm

  3. We need more programs like this one. Learning some new trades to people who need it.

    Miler mig welder

    August 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm

  4. interesting welding program. keep the best

    wong elana

    August 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

  5. Great Post, I’ll look forward for your next writing. I just learned about this topics recently, your posting give me a second thought, thanks.

    admin

    October 13, 2010 at 4:44 am

  6. I like how one of the girls compared welding to Zen. I myself find welding therapeutic. With the shield on and some music in the background, I can tune out for long stretches of time in my garage and work on some fabrication.

  7. Are those auto darkening welding helmets you’re using?
    You look like a row of robots in the 2nd foto
    🙂

    Clarke Mig Welder

    February 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

  8. Haha, sorry. I meant the 3rd foto.
    My bad.

    Clarke Mig Welder

    February 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm


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