There should be better financial support for women - and men - who want to switch careers and move into the building trades, said Lisa Langevin, the B.C. representative for Canada's Building Trade Unions new Journeyman program aimed at getting more women into construction trades.
“There is such a skills shortage looming, it should be easier for anyone to change careers later on in life,” she said, adding that making financial support easier to access could encourage those in menial jobs to seek out the trades.
Langevin is a union journeyman electrician, who is serving as Journeyman’s B.C. ambassador.
Journeyman’s program logo includes the gender symbol for female attached below the “o.”
Langevin said she was like many women today.
“I never considered going into the trades,” she said.
Langevin had graduated from university with a bachelor degree in psychology and was working as a behavioral consultant, when she discovered that she had to upgrade to a master’s degree to keep her job.
“I was burnt out. I had to go back to school to keep my job and the more I looked at this, the more tired I felt. I needed a change,” she recalled.
She spent months doing some soul-searching and researching careers.
She was at a soccer practice in 2001, when a good friend told her that she should become an electrician.”
“The light just went on,” Langevin said, adding that it just felt right.
From then on, she began plotting out a path to a journeyman’s ticket.
She was accepted in BCIT’s pre-apprentice course, which was 10 months in length at that time.
“It’s not so long now,” she said.
However, when she finished the course, she discovered a problem.
Langevin couldn’t find a job at any non-union jobsites she visited.
She said that they were skeptical about hiring a female apprentice.
So, Langevin applied with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
She was approved for the union’s apprenticeship program, with the union tracking her hours and providing support.
Today, she works for the Langley School District and finds the work challenging and interesting.
“Every day is different,” she said, adding that she especially enjoys the feeling of helping to construct something.
“At the end of the day, what you have created will stand for years,” she said.
Langevin is looking forward to her new role as B.C. representative for Journeyman.
She will be talking to media, high school students and at functions where women want to find out more about pursuing a career in the construction trades.
More information is also available at the Journeyman website.