Starting in a new job, let alone a new industry is certainly no easy feat. That did not stop Melissa Jeffries from going for it.
“Jumping into a completely different career path and looking for a job in that field was a little bit overwhelming, but I jumped in with both feet,” says Melissa.
With help from the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) and Regional Employment Placement Specialist, Doug, Melissa had the support she needed to find her fit in the skilled trades as an apprentice electrician.
“STEP has been a really big resource to lean on,” says Melissa. “They gave me pointers for looking for work and helped with my resume, tailoring it more to the industry. They got me the tools I needed, too.”
The idea of a career in construction was always in the back of Melissa’s mind, but she wasn’t sure if there was a place for her in the industry.
“I always thought it’s not really a place for women, so I didn’t really pursue it,” says Melissa.
Coming from a career in child and youth care, Melissa entered the trades on a “whirlwind decision”. Mostly, Melissa was dissatisfied with the wages available in previous career choices.
Her passion for continuous learning and working with her hands brought her to a six-month intro program with the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) at its Trades and Technology Centre in Chilliwack, BC.
After researching and experiencing different trades, she took the first open seat in the Electrical program. Her “just do it” attitude allowed her to excel in this newfound passion.
“It’s totally fulfilling and empowering. It’s awesome,” says Melissa.
When asked about both her male-dominated school and work environments, she had positive feedback to share. Going into this new career, she was unsure of what reaction her male counterparts might have about her being “the girl in the class [and shop]”. Her apprehensions were quickly swept away.
She noted that her classmates and colleagues were all great, and those whom she works with now continue to create an environment where she feels comfortable.
It’s this kind of work environment and culture that the BC construction industry is working to encourage across the sector. For example, the Builders Code initiative is working to build an industry that works for everyone.
Melissa’s story is proof that change requires intent and effort. A little help from STEP along the way can make a big difference too.