BEEDIE LUMINARIES— When Ashleigh Roy joined the Beedie Luminaries Scholarship Program as a part of Cohort 2020, she had her eyes set on a Bachelor of Engineering from Simon Fraser University. Today, she is a first-year Sheet Metal apprentice on the road to getting her Red Seal ticket. As one of the first women in trades across our various scholarship programs, this article breaks down her journey to finding her true passion and the difficulties she faced along the way.
ASHLEIGH ROY— Before I began my employment in Sheet Metal, my goals were set on a much more traditionally academic path: that path being engineering at Simon Fraser University (SFU). After graduating high school in 2020, I set my sights on engineering with the primary goal of creating and building to better my surroundings. The plan of engineering seemed sound as my grades in high school and interests in physics and math aligned so well with it.
Within my two years of studying at SFU, I noticed an extreme decline in passion toward my studies. What I was doing didn’t have the level of hands-on learning I desired, and my future in this career seemed uncertain. I even ventured outside of my faculty into things like psychology, philosophy, business, and more but ultimately came to the same unfulfilled realization that the typical academic teachings were not satisfying my learning needs any longer. While I valued my time at SFU, I knew my true passion was elsewhere.
In the summer of 2022, I was told about the Trades Discovery for Women Program at BCIT by two amazing friends of mine; one being someone who had taken this program a year prior and started her path in Carpentry. Beginning in January 2023, I made the decision to start the program in order to try dozens of different trades over a semester. Along the way, I made so many important peer friendships, and made several crucial connections with trades workers and educators.
Following the 16-week program, and with the help of a tremendous partnership—the BC Centre for Women in Trades and a now mentor figure Sheila Sadler—I was able to start my apprenticeship in the field of Sheet Metal, working on a tower located in Vancouver! Here, I have been able to learn many new skills, have been given responsibilities to grow, and connect with my fellow trades workers.
As I look back at my journey to where I am now, I realize the many misconceptions about the trades and this pathway of education, all starting from what we’re told in high school to the misguided assumptions of women entering the trades.
During high school, trades were never a strongly advertised career path for many students; it was always brought up as a plan B career or a pathway you take if you are unable to enter university or college. This began the stigma that only the lower grade students should enter trades and that someone who “did well” in high school would be wasting their potential in the trades.
As you may have guessed, this misconception had been one of the most damaging for me. Along the way, I realized it should be emphasized to secondary-school students more often that trades are a valuable, demanding, and cognitively challenging career. Just because the educational aspect is not directed into sit-down tests, computer analysis, or writing 12-page essays does not decrease or invalidate the value of quick with mathematics, being machine-inclined, problem-solving skills, and beyond.
To further this, as many know, the vast majority of trades workers are men. In nearly all trades, the percentage of women to men rarely ever exceeds 10% (ConstructConnect, 2022). While this number has greatly increased from the past and continues to do so with the support and encouragement for women joining trades, it does not mean that women don’t have to still be mindful of the challenges of being a workplace minority.
Women will encounter biased opinions and stereotypes such as not being strong enough, or simply being told or implied that they don’t belong there. Though this challenge continues to exist, it has been made clear to me by my mentors and colleagues that it is possible to overcome these challenges. Moreover, it is important to know there are amazing companies out there with supportive, inclusive, and respectful coworkers and superiors. Through my placement, I learned that the people you work with can greatly influence your job satisfaction, and finding a supportive and inclusive environment is crucial.
As I look forward at the incredible career ahead of me, I have already been extremely fortunate to work with such an amazing group of people that continue to teach, encourage, and build me up daily. While not every place will be the right fit, I believe that when you know, you’ll know. To those that are considering entering trades as a career path, the best advice that I can offer is always ask questions, get involved in every process, seize each opportunity that you can.
Lastly, remember: even if you think you know, listen to everybody’s input; the more knowledge you have, the more equipped you’ll be.
Learn more about how to become a Beedie Luminary like Ashleigh here.Back To Top