Mediaplanet: Where did you do your training?

Cecile Bukmeier: I wasn’t even finished high school when I started at NAIT. I was one of the youngest people there, and one of only three girls in my class. A few years later I was set up in a shop to start working and get some experience; unfortunately there weren’t enough people there willing to train me so I fell behind.

MP: Why was that?

CB: I think it was a part of being a female in the trade, I started as the only girl in the shop. A big reason guys didn’t want to train me was that they didn’t want to get shown up by a girl.

MP: How do you not let that bother you, day to day?

CB: It’s gotten a lot better – I just persevered through it. I had a lot of people tell me to get a job in an office, and I tried to not let those comments bother me. I wanted to do this and wanted to show everybody I could do this given a chance. I went to a shop and I was the only person working there so my boss was totally open to me trying different tasks, and I definitely took full advantage – I made a lot of mistakes but I ended up improving quickly and this reflected in my work.

MP: What is the state of the trades in Alberta?

CB: I definitely think it’s a valuable career because Alberta relies so much on the trades. Not everybody wants to be the white collar worker; there are a lot of career options in the trades. I’m not saying to limit yourself to the trades but keep it open. If you’re a man or woman in the trades there are as many opportunities as anywhere else.

"A big reason guys didn’t want to train me was that they didn’t want to get shown up by a girl."

MP: What advice would you give for other women considering a career in the trades?

CB: It’s definitely intimidating especially for younger females just out of high school, although I do feel the trades industry has become more open to including women in the last few years. It only takes one person to give you a shot, so keep trying until you find that person. I would also tell them to not give up on their goals. The first couple jobs I worked in were very hard and I was disheartened, and definitely questioned whether the trade was for me. I wanted to work and do this and nobody wanted to teach me, but once I made up my mind that was it – I was going to find someone who would give me a chance.

MP: What do you see for yourself in the next five to ten years?

CB: I hope to keep helping with the Skills Canada events and raising awareness for women in the trades, and young people as well to promote opportunities to do whatever they want. Personally I want to keep all my door opens. I mean there are so many paths in this trade, I could go on to be an estimator or go be a paint rep or become really, really, good at custom painting and go to Vegas and do that. It’s hard to limit myself right now!

MP: What’s your favourite thing about the job?

CB: I love coming into the shop and knowing that every day is different – there’s a new challenge, a new obstacle every day and it makes the day fly by. And then seeing that finished product and seeing people so happy with the result, you get a great feeling of accomplishment!