Pictured above: Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District students learn about careers in the trades.
Goretti Guilbault bulldozed her way into the trades over a decade ago, and now she’s helping pave the way for other young tradeswomen.
On October 9, Guilbault shared her inspiring career journey with a group of 29 students from the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District.
The inaugural Young Women in Trades Day event took place at the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 training centre in Maple Ridge.
Guilbault explained that her career trajectory changed one day while she was driving down the road and saw a bulldozer at work on a construction site.
“I looked up and didn’t know what it was or what it did, but said ‘I’m going to run that’ and I just chased my dream,” she said.
After landing a job at a construction site she started calling her boss daily to ask if she could operate the bulldozer. Each time, the answer was no. She kept calling.
“I made repetitive daily calls until my boss gave in and let me run the bulldozer,” she said.
Guilbault hasn’t looked back. She’s now a 10-year member of IUOE Local 115 and journeyman heavy equipment operator.
She is also a member of Build Together BC, a campaign of BC Building Trades that promotes, supports and mentors women in the skilled construction trades and she serves on the governance committee of the BC Centre for Women in the Trades.
“It’s about connecting female high school students with tradeswomen for a day of mentorship and career exploration. I think there are more initiatives in place and more young women entering the trades because of the opportunities they now have. There wasn’t anything twelve years ago [when she started]. It was a challenge but completely worth it,” she said.
Chelsea French, also a member of IUOE Local 115, told the group of students about her job as an apprentice commercial transportation mechanic.
“I work on really big trucks – all those trucks you see on the highway and construction sites. I work on dump trucks, logging trucks, cement mixers, highway tractor-trailers and numerous other types of trucks such as snowplows,” she said.
“Here I am with the career of my dreams. It’s the best feeling when I look at my tired, dirty hands at the end of the shift and think about what I’ve accomplished that day. I wish when I was in high school I had this opportunity to learn about careers in the trades. I would have started this journey right out of high school.”
Melanie Mark, minister for advanced education and skills training, told the students that thousands of jobs will be available to them in the trades because workers are aging and retiring. She noted that women make up only five per cent of the construction trades workforce and she hopes to see that percentage increase.
“I think you made the first step by exploring what your options are,” she said.
After discussing careers in the trades, students had the opportunity to tour the training facility and check out some of the heavy equipment and cranes.
Steve Wiebe, principal of District Alternate, Youth Train In Trades Programs and Work Experience, said the event was a revelation for many students.
“They had no idea that this training facility was right here in Maple Ridge or that after 12 weeks of training they have the opportunity to pursue a well-paying career as a heavy equipment operator.”
Reaunna Barnett, one of the attending students, felt inspired by the event. “I chose to come here today because I’ve always been fascinated by the trades. Since I was 12, it’s been my dream job. Anything and everything [the speakers said was] an inspiration.”