University student shifts gears to truck & transport mechanic

Jennifer Nguyen didn’t start her career as a truck and transport mechanic. She spent four years in university majoring in business and politics before realizing that she had lost interest in her studies and needed a change. She decided to take a year off to refocus.
During this time, Nguyen came to appreciate that she really enjoys working with her hands. “I liked working with cars and being hands-on, it’s fun,” she recalls. Nguyen began to look for programs at Red River College to build her skills and to do something new. “I chose the Truck and Transport Mechanic Program based on growing industry demand for skilled workers,” she says, adding the course content was appealing, too.
Nguyen has never looked back. She signed up as an apprentice and has been working in the trade for three years. Changing her career path is a decision she does not regret. “I can honestly say I have never second-guessed my choice and I continue to be happy with what I do.”
Nguyen admits that shifting gears wasn’t always easy and she had a difficult time adjusting to a new schedule. “In university, you can basically set your own schedule; this program was different because I had to be there and stay focused all day.”
The time commitment wasn’t the only obstacle Nguyen had to overcome; initially, she also found it difficult to fit in. The only woman in her program, Nguyen felt a lot of pressure in the beginning to keep up with the other students.
Despite these challenges, Nguyen persisted though her program and now feels right at home in her chosen trade. “Three years later, I’m much more comfortable. My relationships with coworkers have changed and the same thing is expected of me as any other journeyperson in the shop.”
Job security, viable future
Nguyen recently shared her experiences as a female apprentice in a non-traditional trade at Apprenticeship Manitoba’s Building Bridges: Increasing Women in the Trades forum held Oct. 2.
The first event of its kind in Manitoba, the forum’s purpose was to provide the opportunity for female apprentices and journeypersons to talk about their experiences in the skilled trades, and to inform employers, government and educational stakeholders about the challenges they face. Participants were asked to identify barriers as well as potential solutions to address these challenges.
Nguyen says women need to become more informed about the career choices available to them. “The current and anticipated ongoing high demand for truck and transport mechanics offers me job security and a viable future.”
She believes it is also important to highlight women who are already working in the trades. “We need to get out there and let the public know that this is already happening. More and more of us are selecting a trade as our career choice.”
Nguyen offers simple yet important advice to women who are just starting out in the skilled trades: “Stay positive! With hard work, a good sense of humour and a good attitude, you can succeed.”
For more information about the skilled trades and how to get involved as an apprentice, visit the Apprenticeship Manitoba website at manitoba.ca/tradecareers.
-Apprenticeship Manitoba

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