Jill of All Trades: Making Skilled Trades and Technologies a Viable Choice for Young Women

Enbridge-sponsored initiative to host latest JOAT event April 4 at BCIT in Burnaby
Apr 12, 2024 11:00 AM ET

Wearing an all-black ensemble, pearl earrings and high heels, Tylene Swanson’s Facebook profile picture paints a story of a woman who breathes and lives fashion. But that’s only a part of her story.

During her work hours, this soft-spoken, 28-year-old blonde with a captivating smile dons personal protective equipment, steel-toed shoes and a hardhat bearing her name. Swanson proudly serves as a pipeline inspector at Enbridge, ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas that’s used to heat homes, schools and businesses in the Lower Mainland.

Swanson’s career started in trades a decade ago, after her father introduced her to pipeline work in their hometown of Hardisty, Alberta.

“When I was in Grade 12, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to follow the typical careers for women,” Swanson says. “I ended up working on pipelines with my father, completing my apprenticeship by working on different projects, and then getting my welding certification. Right after welding school, I transitioned into pipeline inspection.”

Swanson is among a small group of female tradeswomen in British Columbia. According to the latest survey by the BC Construction Association, only 4.5% of the province’s 164,000 skilled tradespeople are women.

But Jill of All Trades (JOAT) aims to change that. Since 2014, JOAT has provided hands-on experiences to young women in Grades 9 through 12, introducing them to the possibilities of a career in the trades.

In support of this initiative, Enbridge has partnered with JOAT, donating $125,000 to facilitate the successful delivery of these events. At Enbridge, we strongly believe in a diverse workforce and providing opportunities to women and women-identifying individuals.

On April 4, about 100 female and female-identifying students from the Lower Mainland in BC are joining the BCIT Jill of All Trades all-day event in Burnaby, BC. The event will show participants the multiple opportunities of employment to pursue a career in trades.

“We aim to make skilled trades a viable choice for female high school students who are preparing to make their career decisions,” says Tamara Pongracz, BCIT Trades Access Department Head, who is running the BCIT Jill of All Trades. “BCIT Jill of All Trades offers these students the opportunity to immerse in trades and learn from tradeswomen role models.”

Female students from more than 30 high schools in metro Vancouver, Chilliwack and Hope will get to visit skilled trades stations in areas such as ironworking, sheet metal working and welding, power engineering, plumbing, auto-collision repair, cabinet making, and digital and wireless communications.

They will also get to hear directly from tradeswomen, who will share stories and information about their journey into trades, and the diverse career paths available. Swanson will join this volunteer pool to mentor and inspire young girls.

“Many people wrongly assume the trades industry is a man’s world. But there’s a place for everyone here, and there’s a lot of opportunities. Being in trades is not only empowering, it’s rewarding with lots of opportunities for career growth,” Swanson remarks.

“I never let my career define me, but rather, it has helped me establish the woman I want to be. I’m not sure where I would be today if I decided to take an alternative route, but I am very grateful that this is the path I chose when I was that 18-year-old girl.”