Trading in careers

Community Featured

STELLARTON — Pictou County is full of inspirational women to look to, come International Women’s Day and month. And at the Pictou Campus Nova Scotia Community College, some women are smashing stereotypes and stigmas and taking on jobs that may be seen as more traditionally male-dominated jobs.

Women who enrol in trades may be few and far between but they are certainly not unheard of; and for some women, it’s a way of life.

Initially, Mandy MacMillan looked at careers in the nursing field as a CCA or an LPN but decided to take stock of what she really enjoyed doing and changed her path.

“Ultimately, I chose electronic engineering technician,” said MacMillan. When she announced to friends and family that was the course she had chosen she said everyone was very excited and supportive adding that it was a career that really suited her.

Jenaice Robinson originally thought she would be in the medical field and even took a pre-med course before deciding it wasn’t it for her and switching to plumbing at NSCC instead.

“At first it was the excitement then it was, you know the trouble it’s going to be, a woman in a man’s world,” she said when she began telling peers about her change in career. Fellow students Kaitlin Guthro, a cabinet making student and Christine MacKenzie, welding inspection student and Elaine Bryden, welding inspection teacher, for the college all shared the same sentiments with Robinson and MacMillan. Each of the women became attracted to their career through the unique draw it had to them personally. Guthro added that she enjoys the creativity of her trade and all the things that she can do with it.

“The trades appeal to the feminine creative spirit,” said Bryden, adding that many trades are also heavily detail-oriented, a trait women have long been known for through things like knitting, crocheting, painting and more.

Bryden added that not only is it a great outlet to take a trade as a career but it is also rewarding and worthwhile as there is currently a high demand in the trades industries. All of this together promises a stable future which cannot always be promised with a university degree lately.

“It’s a great opportunity to come here if you’re a single parent; it’s a great way to become financially stable,” said MacKenzie about the college. With about two years of training for most of the trades offered at the college, all of the women agreed that for a single mother it has a high payoff and allows you to leave school with a more financially stable future for your children.

The trades also give the women a chance to become their own business owners and set their own hours as well.

“You can start a business and have your name out there. To take your trade and have your own business seems really doable,” said Guthro who admitted that it wasn’t something she thought she might be able to do before beginning the program.

Along with being financially stable, the trades appeal to many women because, like men, there are different types of learners in trades and for those who enjoy working with their hands rather than book work, this is an opportunity to get your hands dirty and have some fun.

“It’s exciting when you learn something in class and you can use it right away in the real world,” MacMillan said. Guthro agreed saying it rings true with cabinet making as well.

“I like the freedom in my course; it basically takes what you learn in class and runs with it,” Guthro said.

“Not all women are people people, some of us are hands-on, don’t mind getting dirty,” said Bryden.

Each of the women recommended test driving or trying out a trade at the college to any woman who may not be sure what they would like to do. They each added their own piece of advice for women who might be considering a new career possibly in trades.

“Follow your heart, don’t go with what other people tell you,” advised MacMillan.

“My family doesn’t live my life, my friends don’t live my life, I do,” said Robinson.

“You can’t look at any of the surrounding things,” said Guthro. “You’re just equal.”


Mandy MacMillan works on a robot for her kids as a class project as part of her Electronic Engineering Technician certificate. (Brimicombe photo)