‘We can do it’ | Toronto Sun

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BOLT Women in Construction Scholarship supports female apprentices

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When her high school automotive instructor encouraged her to pursue a career in welding, Samara Samson thought, why not?

She enrolled in the welding and technology program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, got her certificate and started looking for work.

What the Ontario resident didn’t anticipate was that her decision would lead her into the sheet metal industry, where she became the ninth of 13 women to join SMART Local 285 in Toronto. and one of two apprentices to receive the first BOLT Women in Construction Scholarship as she earned her Red Seal certification last year.

Now, at 31, Samson is on a mission to inspire other women to see themselves in construction. “I had no idea what apprenticeships were. They didn’t send any unions to our high school; they sent colleges, universities, soldiers, but no trades. The only avenue I knew was college, so that’s what I did,” Samson said.

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The irony, she says, is that her grandfather and his partner are both sheet metal workers and yet neither of them saw it as a career path for her until their foreman told him. suggests.

When she began her apprenticeship – which involved three blocks of school and nearly 9,000 hours of work – Samson’s first thought was, “Why do women think they can’t do this job?”

In Ontario, only 4% of on-site construction workers are women and only 4.8% of newly registered apprentices are women, half of whom do not complete their apprenticeship.

The Building Opportunities for Life Today (BOLT) Women in Construction Scholarship Program, offered in partnership with Support Ontario Youth and Ontario Building and Construction Tradeswomen (OBCTradeswomen), aims to enhance this by providing financial support and mentorship to female apprentices. during classroom training. training part of their apprenticeship.

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“Recruitment is half the battle,” said Raly Chakarova, executive director of the BOLT Charitable Foundation, founded by Tridel in 2009 to raise awareness of the diversity of construction careers and to help disadvantaged young people access opportunities.

“Once we recruit, especially women or other underrepresented groups in the industry, we need to make sure there’s a welcoming environment for them to stay,” Chakarova said. “We all have this idea of ​​what construction is and what a construction worker is. Our goal is to unravel and redo that.

This year, the BOLT Women in Construction program is awarding six scholarships; three are already decided and three more will be available in May. Each recipient receives $500 to cover training costs and is paired with a mentor in their trade.

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Samson has spent part of her scholarship on a drafting board so she can work from home and plans to pass it on to another apprentice. As a fully certified sheet metal worker, she now works alone on the job site, installing conduit and piping in new residential homes.

Her company and union have been extremely supportive from the start, she said, but she still struggles with acceptance and adversity from time to time, hearing whispers behind her back or being completely ignored, and sometimes mistaken for a cleaning lady.

“There were times when I would come home crying,” Samson said. “I told myself that I had something to prove, but I promised that it would not be to someone else. I was going to prove myself and other women: I can do it, you can do it, we can do it.

Samson is not only an avid supporter of BOLT, helping to promote the second round of scholarships and speaking at the Foundation’s #BreakTheBias Speak Out event for International Women’s Day, but she is also an ambassador within its international union and member of OBCTradeswomen, working to attract more women to the yard.

“Sheet metal can look like so many things depending on what you want it to be,” she said. “You’ll never know until you try. You’re never going to go fast until you’re good. And you’ll never get good until you practice.

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