(Kemptville) – Jamie McMillan says construction sites, steel factories and automotive plants are a woman’s world too.
The 43 year-old boilermaker and ironworker gave the keynote address Wednesday at the Women in Trades event, extolling the virtues of the trades to 500 female students from the Upper Canada District School Board. Designed for students in Grades 7 and 8, the event was held at the North Grenville Municipal Centre to inform female students about the benefits of the trades in hopes more will consider them as a career.
McMillan recommended the trades as an alternative to the traditional paths of college and university, arguing jobs in the trades offer the same challenges but often with higher wages than many jobs requiring a university degree.
“I want to raise awareness (among these girls) that college and university is not the only pathway to a successful life,” she said at the event, sponsored by the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) of the Upper Canada District School Board and its co-terminus board.
The 43-year-old told her audience that after high school she worked as a waitress and then a personal support worker, but became disenchanted with her life. In 2002, she ran into an old acquaintance, who told her she was an ironworker and recommended McMillan enroll in an apprenticeship.
As an “adrenaline junky,” walking along high-rise steel beams on the tenth floor of buildings under construction was right up her alley. And instead of paying tuition to learn at a college, an apprenticeship paid her to learn her trade.
It took nearly 6,000 hours of work to get her ticket, but now the ironworker and boilermaker earns up to $47 an hour, depending on the shift she takes.
She listed several other advantages to the trades:
· There will be lots of work for many years to come. Some studies estimate Canada is short nearly 300,000 tradespeople.
· Since there is a shortage of tradespeople, there are opportunities to travel and work across the country.
· Wages in the trades are excellent, and while they may work long hours, skilled workers in the trades can earn six-figure salaries.
· The trades offer the freedom to work as an independent businessperson.
· There is a variety of interesting work. For instance, welders can work on everything from buildings and bridges to assembly lines in automobile factories.
“Plus there is the joy of seeing something you have physically built come to life,” she said. “It’s so cool to drive by a building and know that its structural integrity depends on you.”
Students at the event said they were inspired by McMillan’s address. Marcedes Waller, a Grade 8 student at South Grenville District High School, said she is considering the trades as a career. She is drawn to the idea of building things she can be proud of, adding that the wages, and travel opportunities are also appealing.
Students also had the opportunity to visit trades information booths run by St. Lawrence College, OYAP, the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence, and the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
About 200 students attended the morning session from Brockville Collegiate Institute, North Grenville District High School, South Grenville District High School, Athens District High School and Thousand Islands Secondary School. An afternoon session attracted another 300 students from the public board. Schools represented in the afternoon session were Rideau District High School, Gananoque Secondary School, Perth and District Collegiate Institute, Carleton Place High School, Almonte District High School, Chimo Elementary School, Duncan J. Schoular Public School, Lombardy Public School, Montague Public School, and Wolford Public School.
Another full-day session was hosted by the board on Monday.
(Pictured : Ironworker Jamie McMillan, at right, speaks about the value of the trades at the Women in Trades event on Wednesday morning. Pictured, at left, is Emma Bothwell, a Grade 7 student at North Grenville District High School.)