Dreams Do Come True
Melissa Smith always wanted to be a carpenter; she wanted to make things with her hands. Her career path didn’t start out that way, but she’s well on her way to her goal now with the support of her family, friends, and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices.
Future on the HERizon
Melissa graduated with a diploma in business administration, but a downturn in the economy left her working in hotels; behind the front desk and adding shifts in housekeeping to keep her going. She spent several years working seasonally in hospitality, applying for jobs, and caring for her son, but she just wasn’t seeing her life progress the way she wanted.
“A friend from work suggested applying for Trade HERizons. I applied, was accepted, enjoyed the program, graduated, and applied to Holland College for Heritage Retrofit Carpentry,” Melissa says. “In May 2016 I graduated and decided to take the one-year certificate in Wood Manufacturing/Cabinet Making to hone my skills. I wanted to do Finish Carpentry!”
A Bumpy Road
Since her graduation there have been a few bumps in the road for Melissa. She tried working at one manufacturing shop, but wasn’t a good fit. Her second job was a dream come true, but was a long commute which ate up much of her salary and affected how much time she could spend with her family. Once again, Melissa found herself behind the front desk at the hotel trying to catch up on bills.
“At this point I was rather defeated and had almost given up on my carpentry dreams. Another friend suggested I go talk to the Carpenters Union (Local 1338). I went in one day just to talk and see what it was about,” she says, “When I left, I had signed up and joined. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses as I always seem to be fighting to prove myself.”
But she continues to work, and is receiving guidance and support from the Office to Advance Women Apprentices. In January she was successful with her first block and is now a second-year carpenter apprentice. Her goal is to get that Red Seal certification in carpentry, followed by cabinetmaking, and later open her own business where she would focus on finish work, building furniture, and stairs.
“Ultimately, I would love to share my knowledge and skills with other women in the field. It would be awesome to have a crew of women all learning and working together,” she says.
But most importantly, Melissa wants to serve as a hardworking role model for her son.
“Each day I show up to work is a day that shows I don’t give up and I’ll keep fighting for the right to be equal.”
What’s Your Dream
To find out how to achieve your dreams and get a job in your chosen trade, connect with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices who can provide you with direction on a career in the trades, connect you with a tradeswoman mentor, and guide you on your trades career path.