Trade worth having
Salmon Cove crane operator found career at right time
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.”
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.
Lisa King is a spokeswoman for Build Together, a national movement striving to further the success of women in the trades.