Skilled trades not just for men, stresses ironworker/advocate Jamie McMillan

News Dec 15, 2015 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

When Jamie McMillan was in high school, she thought she had to attend college or university.

She wasn’t interested in either, so she went to work at Tim Hortons after graduation.

After a couple years in the workforce, however, her parents pushed her to go back to school. McMillan chose the shortest course she could find and for the next eight years worked as a personal support worker.

In order to make ends meet, she had to also wait on tables to pay the bills. It wasn’t until the Timmins native had moved to Hamilton and by odd chance met an old high school classmate who told her during a quick catchup that she was an ironworker.

“I said, ‘What’s that?,’ and she told me something about building the CN Tower and I said that sounds fascinating,” recalls McMillan, 42.

She went to the Local 736 office on Upper James to check out opportunities.

“At the time, I was becoming very depressed because I didn’t like working at the nursing home. It was very hard on me because I have a lot of empathy and it was very discouraging for me to see elderly people suffering and sick. And I knew I couldn’t retire on an income as a waitress.”

Before long, she was an ironworker apprentice. On her first job, she knew immediately it was the right choice for her.

“It’s funny, my whole family on my dad’s side was all (involved in) construction and mining yet I didn’t really consider that as an option,” she says.

But she also quickly learned the downside of being a woman in a male-dominated line of work.

Even at the turn of the 21st century, there was a lot of sexism on the job. Her first boss told her she was too pretty to ever make it as an iron worker. She was given the most menial tasks until she bugged her boss enough to get a shot at proving herself at the tougher tasks. And she did prove her abilities.

“They kept me on that job for 15 months,” says McMillan.

It’s better today, said McMillan, but she still has to prove herself like a rookie at every new contract.

“Things have changed a lot,” she says. “That first company that I worked for, I went to some job sites where there wasn’t a girls bathroom. It’s a very, very rare occasion now.”

After about five years as an ironworker, McMillan started mentoring other women and advocating for females in the trades.

In 2012, she created the Journeyman logo, with an eye bolt looking like the Venus symbol in place of the letter ‘o’. Today, she operates her own company called Kick Ass Careers and spends half of the year advocating for women in trades, which is a big financial hit from working as a tradeswoman the full year.

“I feel there needs to be more equality in the workplace,” she says.

To that end, she co-founded the workplace equality awareness ribbon (red and white with polka dots).

McMillan spoke at a recent panel discussion presented by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board event to highlight the skilled trades and what is available to students.

Currently, women represent only about four per cent of the workers in the construction trades. The industry is hoping for 20 per cent by 2020, but McMillan admits that is a lofty goal.

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction trades available, however, a number that is increasing with retiring baby boomers. Right now many jobs are filled by foreign workers because there are not enough Canadian tradespeople to do the jobs.

“We don’t have the people to fill the need,” says McMillan. “And these are jobs that both men and women can do.”

Skilled trades not just for men, stresses ironworker/advocate Jamie McMillan

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board highlighting skilled trades and what is available to students

News Dec 15, 2015 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

When Jamie McMillan was in high school, she thought she had to attend college or university.

She wasn’t interested in either, so she went to work at Tim Hortons after graduation.

After a couple years in the workforce, however, her parents pushed her to go back to school. McMillan chose the shortest course she could find and for the next eight years worked as a personal support worker.

In order to make ends meet, she had to also wait on tables to pay the bills. It wasn’t until the Timmins native had moved to Hamilton and by odd chance met an old high school classmate who told her during a quick catchup that she was an ironworker.

“I said, ‘What’s that?,’ and she told me something about building the CN Tower and I said that sounds fascinating,” recalls McMillan, 42.

She went to the Local 736 office on Upper James to check out opportunities.

“At the time, I was becoming very depressed because I didn’t like working at the nursing home. It was very hard on me because I have a lot of empathy and it was very discouraging for me to see elderly people suffering and sick. And I knew I couldn’t retire on an income as a waitress.”

Before long, she was an ironworker apprentice. On her first job, she knew immediately it was the right choice for her.

“It’s funny, my whole family on my dad’s side was all (involved in) construction and mining yet I didn’t really consider that as an option,” she says.

But she also quickly learned the downside of being a woman in a male-dominated line of work.

Even at the turn of the 21st century, there was a lot of sexism on the job. Her first boss told her she was too pretty to ever make it as an iron worker. She was given the most menial tasks until she bugged her boss enough to get a shot at proving herself at the tougher tasks. And she did prove her abilities.

“They kept me on that job for 15 months,” says McMillan.

It’s better today, said McMillan, but she still has to prove herself like a rookie at every new contract.

“Things have changed a lot,” she says. “That first company that I worked for, I went to some job sites where there wasn’t a girls bathroom. It’s a very, very rare occasion now.”

After about five years as an ironworker, McMillan started mentoring other women and advocating for females in the trades.

In 2012, she created the Journeyman logo, with an eye bolt looking like the Venus symbol in place of the letter ‘o’. Today, she operates her own company called Kick Ass Careers and spends half of the year advocating for women in trades, which is a big financial hit from working as a tradeswoman the full year.

“I feel there needs to be more equality in the workplace,” she says.

To that end, she co-founded the workplace equality awareness ribbon (red and white with polka dots).

McMillan spoke at a recent panel discussion presented by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board event to highlight the skilled trades and what is available to students.

Currently, women represent only about four per cent of the workers in the construction trades. The industry is hoping for 20 per cent by 2020, but McMillan admits that is a lofty goal.

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction trades available, however, a number that is increasing with retiring baby boomers. Right now many jobs are filled by foreign workers because there are not enough Canadian tradespeople to do the jobs.

“We don’t have the people to fill the need,” says McMillan. “And these are jobs that both men and women can do.”

Skilled trades not just for men, stresses ironworker/advocate Jamie McMillan

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board highlighting skilled trades and what is available to students

News Dec 15, 2015 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

When Jamie McMillan was in high school, she thought she had to attend college or university.

She wasn’t interested in either, so she went to work at Tim Hortons after graduation.

After a couple years in the workforce, however, her parents pushed her to go back to school. McMillan chose the shortest course she could find and for the next eight years worked as a personal support worker.

In order to make ends meet, she had to also wait on tables to pay the bills. It wasn’t until the Timmins native had moved to Hamilton and by odd chance met an old high school classmate who told her during a quick catchup that she was an ironworker.

“I said, ‘What’s that?,’ and she told me something about building the CN Tower and I said that sounds fascinating,” recalls McMillan, 42.

She went to the Local 736 office on Upper James to check out opportunities.

“At the time, I was becoming very depressed because I didn’t like working at the nursing home. It was very hard on me because I have a lot of empathy and it was very discouraging for me to see elderly people suffering and sick. And I knew I couldn’t retire on an income as a waitress.”

Before long, she was an ironworker apprentice. On her first job, she knew immediately it was the right choice for her.

“It’s funny, my whole family on my dad’s side was all (involved in) construction and mining yet I didn’t really consider that as an option,” she says.

But she also quickly learned the downside of being a woman in a male-dominated line of work.

Even at the turn of the 21st century, there was a lot of sexism on the job. Her first boss told her she was too pretty to ever make it as an iron worker. She was given the most menial tasks until she bugged her boss enough to get a shot at proving herself at the tougher tasks. And she did prove her abilities.

“They kept me on that job for 15 months,” says McMillan.

It’s better today, said McMillan, but she still has to prove herself like a rookie at every new contract.

“Things have changed a lot,” she says. “That first company that I worked for, I went to some job sites where there wasn’t a girls bathroom. It’s a very, very rare occasion now.”

After about five years as an ironworker, McMillan started mentoring other women and advocating for females in the trades.

In 2012, she created the Journeyman logo, with an eye bolt looking like the Venus symbol in place of the letter ‘o’. Today, she operates her own company called Kick Ass Careers and spends half of the year advocating for women in trades, which is a big financial hit from working as a tradeswoman the full year.

“I feel there needs to be more equality in the workplace,” she says.

To that end, she co-founded the workplace equality awareness ribbon (red and white with polka dots).

McMillan spoke at a recent panel discussion presented by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board event to highlight the skilled trades and what is available to students.

Currently, women represent only about four per cent of the workers in the construction trades. The industry is hoping for 20 per cent by 2020, but McMillan admits that is a lofty goal.

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction trades available, however, a number that is increasing with retiring baby boomers. Right now many jobs are filled by foreign workers because there are not enough Canadian tradespeople to do the jobs.

“We don’t have the people to fill the need,” says McMillan. “And these are jobs that both men and women can do.”