Delisle makes Boilermaker history

Nathalie Delisle

First woman to compete in national apprentice contest

NATHALIE DELISLE, A member of Local 271 (Montreal, Quebec), raised the bar for women Boilermakers this summer by becoming the first female in North America to compete in a national Boilermaker apprentice competition. Delisle won her local lodge competition in 2012 and went on to represent L-271 at the Canadian national event in Moncton, New Brunswick, June 22-26. She was joined by teammate Alexandre LaPalme-Lajeunesse, who won the local competition in 2011.

Delisle attributes her aptitude for the Boilermaker trade to her father, who introduced her to hard work at an early age. The second of four girls, she is accustomed to working with her hands.

“I did my first oil change at age six,” she said. “I also shoveled the driveway and helped out with the plumbing.”

At age 16, she began doing summer work at a mine where her father was employed, in Val d’Or, Quebec. Years later, she moved near Montreal to study architecture. That goal changed when Delisle met her future husband, L-271 member Dave Morin, who was then an apprentice. With his encouragement, she applied for and was accepted into the apprenticeship program.

Today, Delisle says she is happy with her decision.

“I love the variety of jobs that come with being a Boilermaker. I specialize in welding, but I also enjoy the challenges of rigging and fitting.”

Delisle has the added challenge of raising a family, a task she shares with her husband. As much as possible, she tries to work close to home. Her last job before the competition was a refinery shutdown for Suncor. Juggling hours on the job with time making school lunches and driving kids to activities makes for long days, she says.

“You make it work, but you don’t know how you did it when it’s over. Shutdowns are ideal, because I work five or six months and then I am off for six months with my family.”

Delisle is one of eight women out of 800 members in her local. She credits the lodge for supporting female Boilermakers in a craft traditionally dominated by men.

Delisle says the national competition offered her a chance to feel validated as a Boilermaker and to learn things from fellow graduate apprentices. “You have to trust your partner on the job and learn to compromise. You can’t always have it your way. I believe when you meet people there is reason. You have something to learn from them.”