Monday, November 28, 2011

Skills Work!® for Women – Amanda Young, Electrician

Electrical work is hard.  There’s a lot of math and physics involved, the work can be quite physically demanding, and travel for work can be extensive.  But if you talk to Amanda Young, you’ll find that what can be the most challenging is working with so many different people.  Whether in a classroom or on a job site, the group dynamics are something that must be managed.  However, especially that she’s now teaching her trade, Amanda finds that the people are also the most enjoyable part of her job.

After trying floristry and early childhood education, Amanda’s desire for a higher income turned her attention to becoming an electrician.  After starting as a labourer, and then going through her electrical apprenticeship, she’s now had her ticket for about 10 years.  She’s worked on a variety of jobs over the years, even taking her to the oil sands in Alberta.

“It was amazing.  We were in an isolated area, but there were 2000 people working in the camp.  Hundreds of buses were transporting people back and forth all the time, all different shifts and all different trades.  And there were 6 camps like this.”  She also enjoyed getting to use tools and machinery that she never would otherwise have seen, and to travel to places she may not have visited.  For free, no less!

In recent years, Amanda has turned more toward teaching.  Over the past six years, she has taught intermittently at Georgian College, and now she is the Lead Teacher for the Electrical Techniques program at Georgian.  Not only is she responsible for her own classes, but three other teachers report to her, plus she has the responsibility of looking after program needs such as tools, materials, textbooks and curricula.  Amanda’s passion for teaching has provided her with a number of other opportunities to speak to youth about her career, including through the YMCA, WIST (Women in Skilled Trades) and Women on Words.

The most important thing to remember going into an apprenticeship is that it can be demanding.  You don’t always get to do what you want, but you need to learn what you can, and stick it out until you get to the point where you can pick and choose your jobs.  Math skills are important, and you need to be versatile.

Particularly for young women, Amanda's advice is this:  “be prepared for obstacles, and bring a positive attitude.  It’s easy to get dragged down by others’ attitudes and behaviours.  Try to look at your workmates as people, not just a bunch of guys.  If you have confidence in yourself, the people you work with will reflect that.”

Amanda was a mentor at this year’s “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner in Barrie on November 15, 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Skills Work!® What’s Out There?

Sheet Metal Workers

Normally, when people think of construction careers, the first to come to mind are carpenter, plumber or electrician. Construction is the largest sector in the skilled trades, so there are plenty of reasons to look around and see what other options exist!

For this installment of our career profile series, we’ll be looking at Sheet Metal Workers. The basic definition of this job is to shear, form, fabricate, weld, solder and assemble a host of items made from galvanized iron, sheetsteel, copper, nickel alloy, stainless steel, aluminum, plastics and ceramics. The most commonly recognized sheet metal work is roof decking, eavestroughs and ducting/ventilation systems.  Once upon a time, sheet metal workers were known as tinsmiths.  Just think of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz and you get the idea!

Sheet metal workers also perform these duties:
  • Read engineering and architectural drawings and sketches of work to be performed
  • Lay out, measure and mark sheet metal according to drawings or templates
  • Develop patterns for sheet metal using computer-assisted design and drafting (CADD) software package
  • Operate light metal-working machines such as shears, brakes, punches and drill presses to cut, bend, punch, drill, shape or straighten sheet metal
  • Operate computerized laser or plasma-cutting equipment to cut sheet metal
  • Fit and join sheet metal parts using riveter, welding, soldering and similar equipment
  • Install sheet metal products according to specifications and building codes
  • Grind and buff seams, joints and rough surfaces
  • Inspect product quality and installation to ensure conformance to specifications


Primary steel producers, aircraft and parts manufacturers, building construction companies

Salary Range
$12 - $37 per hour, approximately $25,000 - $76,900 per year
(Remember, average salaries include apprenticeship wages, and are exclusive of vacation pay, overtime pay and health benefits.)

Education Required
9000 apprenticeship hours (approximately 4-5 years)
College – check out to search options!

Helpful Skills
  • Aptitude for science and math
  • Interest in computers and technology
  • Comfortable working in a variety of environments
  • Able to read and interpret technical drawings
Contact your local or regional branch of the Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers Union for more information.

Career Management Tip - Resume Components

When you’re writing your resume it’s important to be aware of what the reader will want to see.

Answering these questions will help you focus during the resume writing process.
  • For whom are you writing this document? Who is your target audience? 
  • What competencies need to be highlighted? What do you do better than those in the same position? 
  • What have you done that demonstrates those competencies and differentiators? 
  • Why, how and what were the results and/or benefits of your activities? Quantifying and qualifying your accomplishments is important. 
  • What is the best resume format to capture and present this information? 

Must-Have Resume Components
Regardless of style or format, resumes tend to contain similar components, depending on your defined target.
  • Vital Statistics – Every resume should include your name, address, phone number, and email. If it’s relevant to the position you are applying to, you may also want to include your online portfolio, blog, or LinkedIn URL. 
  • Profile or Career Summary – A thumbnail sketch of who you are and what you have done with specific competencies you want to take forward or that are particularly marketable. 
  • Business Experience – This includes the company’s name, and possibly a brief description, or scope statement of what that company does, years employed, job titles and dates of employment. 
  • Scope of Responsibility Statements – Put these under each job title. It can include reporting structure, the functional areas you supported and budget size or revenue you oversaw. 
  • Accomplishment Statements – Specific examples of what you have done and the associated results and benefits. 
  • Education and Professional Development – Include both your formal education and other courses, seminars and workshops that are relevant to your target market. List this information in reverse chronological order, but be selective as to the ones that are included. You should include items that will add value to your resume. 
In our next career management tip we will focus on writing a GREAT resume profile. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Skills Work!® for Women – Kayne Shaw, Landscaper

To borrow a phrase, Kayne Shaw is a classic “Jackie of all trades.”  Some of the jobs contained within her job as a Landscaper are Density Technician, Field Testing Technician, Heavy Equipment Operator and Truck Driver.  Not to mention she’s a Health and Safety representative at Darryl’s Custom Landscapes.  Oh, and she’s a part-time Firefighter for the Town of Fort Frances.  No big deal.

Having worked in the field for nine years, Kayne has asserted herself time and again on the job.  She cites the most important skill for her work as integrity.  Much of what she does involves materials testing, which requires a high degree of work ethic and an unbiased view of the work itself.  What also helps?  Curiosity, and a willingness to develop new skills.  With so many bases to cover, it’s not a surprise that she thinks so!  Her own educational background encompassed some university, but is mainly comprised of “short-course” training in various aspects of her job, such as Concrete Field Testing.

Kayne’s favourite part of the job is the variety involved.  No two days are the same.  She encountered big attitudes from others who didn’t know her and didn’t know her work ethic, but she has proven her skill over and over, and leaves no doubt in others’ minds about her abilities right alongside men’s abilities. Her proudest accomplishment is earning the respect of her peers in industry.

Although Kayne did not actively pursue a career in the skilled trades, she seems to have landed in the right place.  “I believe I have ended up where I am due to varied circumstances.  I love what I do and have no intention of changing careers.”  Her advice to any young women exploring careers?

“Get a degree or certificate in a field that you find interesting. Try new things as often as you can. Listen to those with experience and ask questions.”

Kayne was a mentor at the recent "Skills Work!® for Women" Networking Dinner in Fort Frances, Ontario.