Here in British Columbia, skilled workers are needed in numerous sectors, with opportunities to be found both here at home and farther afield.
The BC Jobs Plan 6 Month Progress Report recently noted, for example, that Seaspan Marine Corporation’s $8 billion contract to build non-combat vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy at their shipyards in North Vancouver and Esquimalt will provide long-standing jobs, directly and indirectly, for roughly 4,000 British Columbians.
Mila Puharich hopes to be part of this good news. She’s just starting her career but she’s already forging uncharted territory as the first female metal fabricator in her workplace in more than 60 years.
“I’m really truly the first woman they’ve ever seen in the steel fitting trade there. They are welders, electricians and riggers, but I’ve yet to meet another woman fitter.”
She also gets to hone her craft on all kinds of marine vehicles from boats, to ships, to submarines.
For heavy duty mechanic Taylor Paulson, inspired to follow his uncle into the trade, Camosun College’s heavy-duty mechanic certificate program gave him everything he needed to launch his new career. “The program was great. After 10 months in the classroom I was happy to start the hands-on stuff, the good stuff,” says Taylor. “I received grants for my program, which were a nice boost early on.”
Today, Paulson is working in Tumbler Ridge, in northern B.C., supporting the province’s booming mining industry. “I make sure the mines are running smoothly: I diagnose and repair support trucks and equipment, sometimes I’ll be on-site, and other times I’ll have to do repairs at the shop. I’m proud that I work here in B.C. – it’s beautiful here, the hunting is fantastic, there’s amazing hiking, a world-class snowmobile system and fresh river fishing, too.”
For Puharich, two programs were key in connecting her as a female metal fabricator with her job: WITT or Women in Trades and STEP. WITT is geared towards helping employers in B.C. get the skilled workers they need by matching them with women who have some experience, or who want to start a career, in the trades. STEP is a no-fee employment program that works to match potential workers with employers. They assist eligible people by presenting them with opportunities for training and employment.
It’s no surprise Puharich gets excited when talking about WITT. “The WITT program is awesome. Karen McNeil at Camosun is the goddess of apprentices. She directed me to funding, grants and helped connect me to the STEP program. The support system there is like a trampoline, it just makes you go higher! STEP (then) helped get me the interview with Victoria Shipyards.”
To find out about these and other skills training programs visit https://www.workbc.ca/Education-Training/Programs/Pages/Employment-Programs.aspx.
Puharich continues with on-the-job training and additional courses, learning from mentors with the know-how to build more awesome boats, ships and yes, even submarines.