In Alberta, the skilled trades are traditionally seen as male-dominated occupations, but Leduc Composite High School Career and Technology Studies teacher Jessica Chisholm and welding technician Tracey Meaver are developing new ways to encourage female students to get involved.
“I run the fabrication/welding program here at the high school,” said Jessica Chisholm. “During 11 years in the welding trade, I worked toward achieving my Red Seal Journeyman Welding Certification and my B-Pressure Welding Certification. I spent the last several years of my welding career as a TIG Welder.”
Although Jessica enjoyed the welding trade, in 2017 she decided to take the next step in her career and began working toward her Bachelor of Education Degree at the University of Alberta. She wanted to share her skills and passion for welding with students, and to teach them how to work safely.
“Also, being a female in a primarily male-dominated industry, I strive to be a role model for females interested in pursuing a trade,” she said.
Tracey Meaver has been at the high school for 17 years, most of which has been in the welding program. “I participated in training at CLAC Career Development College’s welder training facility where I achieved my Canadian Welding Bureau certification,” said Tracey. “Over the years, I have completed my Alberta Health and Safety Certification in order to ensure the safety of the students in the welding shop and as they transitioned into the workplace.”
“I cannot imagine doing anything else as a career, and I very much enjoy coming to school every day,” said Tracey. “We are seeing a greater number of females enrolled in the welding program than in previous years, and we are both extremely proud of this.”
This year, with the help of Women Building Futures and a generous donation from PCL, Jessica and Tracey introduced a very successful lunch-hour program – Girls Try Welding. The goal for this program is to build the confidence of the girls who were interested in registering for the welding program, but felt intimidated by its perceived macho ethos. They also want to raise awareness of the career opportunities in the skilled trades for women.
“We had much more interest than we initially expected, with 14 girls signing up,” said Tracey. “We taught the group welding safety, GMAW welding, and then they used their individual creativity to complete small projects they were able to take home.”
“Our goal has been to create an inclusive welding program where all students feel welcome,” said Jessica. “Offering this program ensured that female students from our school community had a chance to learn a little about welding in a safe environment and build up their confidence with the tools.”
“We were fortunate enough to have a few of these girls enroll in the welding program in the second semester,” she added. “Moving forward, since we received such great feedback about this program, we will be offering it again in the fall.”
Byline – Deven Kumar