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An untapped resource

Part of the solution to the construction industry’s labour shortage may be supporting women in the trades

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“He was swamped with work, so we decided to give it a go, instead of going somewhere else and paying someone to teach us. We were going to learn on the job.”

After a year and half, the pair struck out on their own and haven’t looked back. They now work on the biggest and most elaborate residential projects in Whistler, and are booked months in advance. Humphrey feels the best part of her job is the freedom it affords her.

“I can work 12-hour days for a week and then take the next week off,” she says. “I set my own schedule. It is very satisfying that way.”

Was it hard at first to be the only female on a job site?

“Nothing too awful happened. There were other carpenters, trades, who did their best to make me feel uncomfortable,” she says. “But after six years of doing this job, my work speaks for itself. I have gained a lot of confidence.”

One thing Humphrey has noticed working on a new job site is that other trades may be reluctant to talk to her about work matters. “Sometimes the other guys will wait until Bernie is around if they have to discuss something about our work, thinking that I don’t know enough. But as they get to know me that changes, and they will come and talk to me too.”

At this point, the job site is not intimidating to her. “A lot of guys on these jobs have the same interests as us; hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding. Our best friends are people we have met on the job site,” she says. “It is a great group of people out here.”

The most satisfying part of the job to Krista is the sense of accomplishment she feels when a job is completed. “You get to stand back and say ‘I did that!’” she says. She also enjoys the freedom the paycheque gives her. Her income is double that of her clerical job at the hospital.

Humphrey is surprised there are not more women working in the construction trades in Whistler. “Whistler women are strong — they could easily do this work,” she says.

Downsides? “It would be nice to go to work and stay clean all day,” she jokes. “I go to work in coveralls, with a kerchief keeping my hair back.”

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