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L-146 workshop fires up young women welders

“All apprentices, from first, second and third year, had a great experience teaching the basic foundations and passing the torch to the students.”

Kayla Vander Molen, L-146 Pre-Apprenticeship Instructor

Students and Boilermakers take a break for a group photo.

Thirteen high school young women visited Boilermakers Local 146’s (Calgary, Alberta) hall to learn about the Boilermakers trade and what it means to be a sister in the Brotherhood. In partnership with CAREERS Next Generation, a nonprofit foundation that helps guide youth towards successful career paths (sponsored by Scott Mackay at Miller Electric), L-146 hosted the second day of a two-day Young Women in Trades and Technology Camp.

During the camp, students learned about industries where women are underrepresented, Boilermaker skillsets and the work scope and opportunities available if they were to join the union. After presentations, six Boilermaker apprentice volunteers—all women—worked with the students. In fact, the day was entirely led and taught by Boilermaker sisters.

“It was learning from both sides,” says Kayla Vander Molen, L-146’s pre-apprenticeship instructor. “It was beautiful to see the apprentices step out of their comfort zone in the training. All apprentices, from first, second and third year, had a great experience teaching the basic foundations and passing the torch to the students.”

Maria Haswell, a first-year apprentice, says she couldn’t have been more excited to participate in the event. 

“I couldn’t wait for the day to come, and I think I drove everybody crazy talking about it,” she says. “Sitting back and watching the students jump in and start welding left me in awe. I was really honored to aid young women to have the opportunity to see if welding is something they wish to do.”

The day was more than introducing the women to the trade. It was also about building each student’s confidence, empowering them to feel capable of choosing a career in a trade that is typically male dominated.

“I was in the booth with each student giving them confidence,” says Rylee Knopp, second-year apprentice. “Seeing their smiles light up is exactly why I came here—to show them you can do it and don’t be afraid. There are a lot of women doing these trades. I want to be the voice that says they can do it, even if no one else in their life says they can.”

The students welded bees out of studs and wing nuts and forged horseshoe hearts while learning GMAW and SMAW welding processes, oxy-fuel cutting and blacksmithing. For the volunteers, teaching high school students about a career in the trades was important.

“The girls seemed to really enjoy themselves; and it was a refreshing experience to see them trying all this stuff so young, as I never got to have that experience and I wish I had,” says second-year apprentice Rachel Tataryn. “I’m very happy that it is more accepted now for women to be in these fields, and I am proud that the Boilermakers union is helping young girls get to where they want to be.”

For new journeyman, Riley McElroy, the day made her grateful to her mentors and made her want to be a role model to women in the trades.

“I’m so fortunate to say I have some amazing mentors and teachers who helped shape me into the tradeswoman I am today,” Riley says. “As I was teaching, I kept thinking about how my mentors and instructors taught me. This day made me want to be the best role model I can be for future females getting into the trades.”

The day was a success, leading volunteers to believe some of teen participants will return to the Boilermakers union for their future trade. The local intends to continue its partnership with CAREERS Next Generation and repeat this event annually.