Stacie Wilkinson originally wanted to pursue a career in the arts but a high school pre-apprenticeship program sent her on a new path: welding.
The pre-apprenticeship program started to see more woman enrolling and it caught the eye of the young Wilkinson. When she started to realize that the arts weren’t feasible for her lifestyle, she decided it was time to consider the trades. During her time at the pre-apprenticeship, Wilkinson became passionate about the industry.
“It’s every nice weld you get and it’s the boss coming too and saying, ‘That was a really nice weld,’” said Wilkinson. “That’s the most rewarding part for me. It shows me why I wanted to be a welder.”
Even after entering welding, Wilkinson’s artistic side never faded. She spent a year building playgrounds that would be used across the province. Currently, Wilkinson works at Brantford Hydraulics as a production welder. Her job is to help produce hydraulic cylinders for dump trucks and snow plows. She is currently the only welder on site, giving her lots of experience.
Even though Wilkinson hasn’t been in the field very long, she has already faced challenges when it comes to her gender. No matter how much effort she put in, she couldn’t help but notice others didn’t seem to think she was as qualified as her male counterparts.
She found that most of the men who applied for the same jobs as she did would be hired on the spot. When she sent in her application she found employers looking carefully into her background and abilities.
“Sometimes they had their eyes over my shoulder to make sure I was doing everything correctly,” said Wilkinson. “Sometimes I was even doing a better job than the guys they just let onto the job. That’s one thing that didn’t bother me. If I have to prove something, I’m going to prove it.”
Wilkinson says that having a support system behind her was important during her schooling. She was one of few in her family who attended a post-secondary institution. She received a lot of support from her family, who were proud to see her continuing her education. She also drew a lot of support from the office administrator of her union who encouraged women to enter the field.
“I’ve been in the lows where I thought I was nothing,” said Wilkinson. “It’s nice to have a support group around you. It’s what makes you go farther, I find.”
Despite her personal experiences, Wilkinson believes the industry as a whole is taking a turn for the better. As her career in the trades continues, she has seen a much more accepting environment towards women. When she’s not at Brantford Hydraulics she is helping others break into the industry, teaching a welding course at Mohawk College. Wilkinson admits that she has a soft spot towards her female students.
“I am very [pro] girl power,” said Wilkinson. “Any girl that wants to try it, I’ll be there to hold them up.”