Trade worth hav­ing

Salmon Cove crane op­er­a­tor found ca­reer at right time

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

Things are go­ing well for Lisa King. The sin­gle mother of two owns her home in Salmon Cove, can cover the monthly bills, and has a skillset that’s in de­mand.

But that wasn’t al­ways the case for King. Fol­low­ing the end of her mar­riage sev­eral years ago, it quickly be­came ap­par­ent she needed to find a way to sup­port her fam­ily.

“I went through a ter­ri­ble di­vorce … I found my­self in an im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion re­ally, be­cause I didn’t have any ed­u­ca­tion, got mar­ried at 21, had chil­dren, and I didn’t re­ally do any­thing for my­self.”

Now a mo­bile crane op­er­a­tor cur­rently em­ployed at Vale’s nickel pro­cess­ing site in Long Har­bour, King is find­ing steady em­ploy­ment. She’s also one of sev­eral spokes­women for Build To­gether — a na­tional move­ment to fur­ther the suc­cess of women in the trades.

“If I had to con­tinue work­ing min­i­mum wage, I wouldn’t be able to see my kids flour­ish in swim­ming lessons or base­ball,” said King, who is orig­i­nally from Vic­to­ria. “My son is a dirt bike fa­natic. We wouldn’t have any of those things.”

Her ex-hus­band was in­volved in the trades, so King knew it was a fruit­ful sec­tor. With a fam­ily to sup­port, she didn’t think four years of uni­ver­sity would be fea­si­ble, and her com­mute to St. John’s for work was not a long-term op­tion.

So King met with a lo­cal em­ployee from the Sin­gle Par­ent As­so­ci­a­tion of New­found­land and Labrador.

It was that per­son, Anne Collins Brown, who sent King an email in the spring of 2010 about a crane op­er­a­tor’s course of­fered in Holy­rood. Through Vale’s di­ver­sity fund to in­crease fe­male in­volve­ment in skilled trades, King would get paid $10,000 to com­plete the pro­gram. The Op­er­at­ing En­gi­neers Col­lege ac­cepted her for the six-month pro­gram three days later. King is now a third-year ap­pren­tice work­ing to­wards the 5,400 hours needed to ob­tain Red Seal sta­tus. Not all her hours worked count to­wards her ap­pren­tice­ship, but King is prag­matic about that.

“But I mean, you can’t sit home ei­ther. You need to sup­port your fam­ily too.”

Bar­ri­ers to break

Although the num­ber of women reg­is­tered provin­cially for ap­pren­tice­ship pro­grams in non­tra­di­tional trades has in­creased by 35 per cent since 2004, the num- ber of women work­ing in skilled trades re­mains small. Ac­cord­ing to the Build To­gether web­site, women rep­re­sent ap­prox­i­mately 4 per cent of all Cana­di­ans in the con­struc­tion trades work­force.

King’s own ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in a male-dom­i­nated en­vi­ron­ment has gen­er­ally been a pos­i­tive one.

“You’re go­ing to run into a few that’s not so nice, but for those few that’s not so nice, the rest of them make up for the short­com­ings of some­one else.”

She can re­call en­coun­ter­ing a fore­man with a less-than-hos­pitable at­ti­tude to­wards women work­ing in the skilled trades sec­tor.

“He said a lot of things to me that shouldn’t have ever been said, like, ‘Women don’t be­long in the work place’ … It got to the point that I did have to re­port him, and he was rep­ri­manded for his ac­tions.

“There’s ways around it — you don’t have to lis­ten to that any­more. Just stick up for your­self and go through the proper chan­nels, and it will get dealt with.”

The Of­fice to Ad­vance Women Ap­pren­tices has helped King find work and an­swers to ques­tions. She’s also en­joyed men­tor­ing other work­ers and is proud to be in­volved with Build To­gether.

“Whether you’re 19 or your late-50s, this is some­thing for all of us. There’s so much go­ing on (in New­found­land and Labrador) — we want to be a part of it. For me, I wanted to let all the sin­gle moms that are out there strug­gling (know) you don’t need to be.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Lisa King of Salmon Cove is trained to op­er­ate mo­bile cranes. She’s a strong ad­vo­cate for women tak­ing on ca­reers in the skilled trades sec­tor.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO COUR­TESY OF BUILD TO­GETHER

Lisa King is a spokes­woman for Build To­gether, a na­tional move­ment striv­ing to fur­ther the suc­cess of women in the trades.

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