When you walk into the multi-story KUBE structure in the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre, Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing students Amanda Hancock, Amy French and Kayla Wilford do not stand out amongst the group of students welding pipes, finding parts, and polishing finished projects.
And that’s just the way they like it.
“I don’t feel any different,” said Amanda on being a woman in trades. “They help when needed and I love it here.”
Amanda’s classmate Amy agrees, adding, “We all help each other out.”
It wasn’t too long ago when there weren’t many female students in trades programs at Fleming College. Since 2014, when the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre opened at the Sutherland Campus, enrolment of female students grew from 3 per cent to 12 per cent.
Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing program coordinator Neil Maika said that while trades may still be a male-dominated industry, women employed in trades careers is on the rise.
“There is an immense opportunity here. Multiple employment paths are becoming available,” said Neil. “Also, all of my students are great. They respect each other, they help each other, and they are all very professional. All students are treated equally by both faculty and their peers, whether female or male.”
First-semester student Amanda said she did have some concerns before she enrolled.
After hearing amazing things about Fleming College from her brother, who took the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning program, Amanda decided to give trades a try three years after graduating from high school. Amanda chose the plumbing program based on the recommendation of her friend’s stepfather, who is a plumber and loves his profession.
“I was worried about it myself, but they’re all nice. It’s no different being a girl here,” said Amanda. “We’re no different if we can do the job. And all the guys here are very friendly, kind and supportive.”
Her classmate Kayla, on the other hand, had no hesitation enrolling in the Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing program right after high school.
“I spent the last two summers working in trades with a friend. I helped with renovations, basic labour, installing showerheads, things like that,” said Kayla, who graduated from Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School last year. “I was torn between going straight into an apprenticeship or taking this program. I decided to take this program to help figure out if plumbing is the trade I want to do, instead of going straight into a specific apprenticeship.”
In the Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing program, students learn a variety of trade-specific skills. They are also introduced to installing, maintaining and repairing piping systems in residential, commercial and industrial settings to enhance employment opportunities.
Amy French, a mature student who started college after having children, said she chose the program based on job prospects.
“I’m told women in trades are wanted and needed, and specifically asked for, so here I am,” said Amy. “I chose plumbing because plumbing was the most expensive construction cost, and I want to build my own house one day. I feel like it’s the right career path.”
Amy said she feels being a mature student gives her an advantage. She feels more mature now than she did right after high school, she doesn’t party, and she is very focused on finishing school.
Her advice to current students is don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Amanda added that there are many resources available for help, such as asking faculty when you have questions, signing up for tutoring, and taking advantage of D2L.
Kayla reminds students to stay focused on school. “Pay attention, get your homework done, get your projects done—focus,” she said.