THE TRADES Opening the path to success for women in a male dominated world of skilled trades.
Mediaplanet What first inspired you to pursue a career in the trades?
Christianne Hall I grew up on a farm in southern Saskatchewan and had eight sisters and two brothers. My Dad allowed me to do just about anything so when I was a teenager in the 70’s it was common to look to the trades for a career. When I was 18 I started making tanker trucks and did my first apprenticeship as a welder.
I left because of some addiction problems, but did a Life Skills program to get back again. I married at 21 and had seven children in less than 10 years. I was married 13 years and the marriage broke up in 1991. At 34 I was now a single mother of seven children all under the age of 12. I had to make some decisions so I moved in a very short time to a community closer to Regina so I could commute back and forth to go back to school. I decided to get into the trades because I could make enough money to get me and my seven children off welfare.
I moved me and my children to Edmonton to be home every night with my children, and I’ve been here since April of 1997! My kids are grown, my three sons are Union Ironworkers, one son-in-law is an apprentice, and one of my daughters is studying Construction Engineering at NAIT.
MP Describe what typical day on the job looks like?
CH I now work as a welding instructor for the Alberta Apprenticeship and Training Plan for the Ironworkers Local 720. I work with welders that usually have their Journeyman already to test for upgrade welding tickets so they can weld on structural buildings, bridges, etc. I do anything in the building that might require fixing, like lights and fixtures and I plant and water the yard. I love the people and I love the work. I also started the Sisters of 720 Committee and have a long history with the Women in Trades and Technology (WITT).
MP Being a woman in the trades, how do you face challenges and negativity when overcoming stereotypes?
CH I worked hard and I had a sense of humor. I got really good at being a welder and showed the guys I was working with that I could do it. I was always respectful and never assumed anything. I stayed positive in the midst of negativity and worked on myself a lot to get through my day and to always stay focused.
MP What would you say to young women looking to pursue a career in the trades?
CH I would say build yourself up and trust your abilities, and learn your skills well. There is always another way, and we work different then a man does. Never give up and stay active and busy on the job.
MP Where do you find the most fulfillments in your career as a tradesperson?
CH I find the most fulfillments in people and the possibilities they can achieve, by helping others achieve success in their trade skills so they can be confident with themselves and their work abilities. I also love to work and make things with my hands, to see at the end of the day what I can accomplish.
MP How did you know this was the right fit for you?
CH I knew this was the right fit for me when I had others sayings good things about me and my work and I was successful at the job and felt great. I fit the mentality of an Ironworker, known for their hard working skills. I also always had fun and that made for a great fit.
MP Once you complete your trades training, what other opportunities are available? Can you get higher designations? More training?
CH Yes of course, I have already finished my training and have completed many years in the welding trade with the Ironworkers Union. I am now an Instructor and I will be doing my training this summer studying for my level one CWB Welding Inspector.
“I would recommend they find other women that do what they want to do, through the training departments at NAIT and SAIT or unions who have women instructors and teachers.”
MP Inspired by your story, what resources do you recommend for young women to look into should they decide to explore a career in the trades and apprenticeships?
CH I would recommend they find other women that do what they want to do, through the training departments at NAIT and SAIT or unions who have women instructors and teachers. I have had young women contact me to talk to me so they could decide if it would work for them. There’s also inspiration in the books of women’s stories in the trades. There a lot of books on women in the trades, such as Hard Hatted Women and Journeywoman- Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World.
MP Who has been your biggest source of support in your career?
CH My children, they have been with me through it all. Now my sons have come into the trades and I have worked with them on job sites. It’s so great being a mother who has brought her sons into her union. I also have a great family and siblings who have supported me along the way, and of course my current Local Union 720 and my brother and sister union Ironworkers.
MP What’s next for you?
CH I very happy with my job now, I have a great job and I can do a lot here. Many doors could open but for now I am grateful for what I have!