In 1993, I was married with a four-year-old daughter working in the fast food industry. I decided to take a course at West Viking with my first choice being Auto Mechanics because I like working with my hands. Because its quota was met, I settled for Electrical Construction.
When I graduated in 1994, I started putting out resumes wherever electrical was concerned, but I didn't receive any work for the first year. It wasn't until a friend told me that I should have applied for union membership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). After becoming a member, I remember getting my first call for work three days after my separation from my husband. Although it was a hard time, I agreed to work on contract through the union for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.
I reported for work that Monday morning with my toolbox, helmet, coveralls, and steel-toed boots. There was some talk about 'this missus' working in electrical in the mill because apparently I was the first. I was very nervous and uncomfortable. I was afraid that I couldn't hold my own and I didn't want to be there just because I was a woman. I don't agree with giving a job to a woman just because she's a woman. If a woman is hired then she should be able to handle the work.
In this type of work, there's a lot of lifting, pulling, climbing, and crawling. I was never afraid of heights, getting my hands dirty or cracking a nail. My biggest problem was that I didn't have the same strength as my male co-workers.
Now, the men are excellent to work with. We joke around and they treat me like one of the boys. At first, some were a little uncomfortable and nervous around me especially when I climbed the ladder or crawled around in high places.
When I'm not working, I use weights to strengthen my arms. At first, when I get off work, I wouldn't have the strength to lift my teacup without shaking. I figured I had really bit off more than I could chew, but I stuck with it. I'm glad I did because now I really enjoy my work and I've met some very nice people along the way.
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