Heading into work Monday morning doesn’t put ironworker, Jamie McMillan, in a funk. Maybe it’s because her work site is constantly changing, providing her with exciting new challenges. Perhaps it’s because she thrives as a strong woman in a male-dominated field. Or maybe it’s simply because she sincerely loves her job.
A graduate of Ontario’s “Earn While You Learn” apprenticeship, McMillan’s whirlwind career takes her across the country: one week she can be sky-high connecting steel at a gas and oil plant in Alberta, and the next week she could be in a confined space at an industrial plant in Ontario replacing the steel plates that line a chute. To put it simply, her job kicks ass.
And she gets to talk about it pretty frequently, spending half the year as a public speaker and mentor at schools on behalf of her company, KickAss Careers, encouraging today’s youth to consider a career in the trades. You will spend a third of your life in your career, “It’s important that you find something that you love to do.” McMillan advises.
Growing up, McMillan states that she had never heard of skilled trades and apprenticeships. She urges kids today to take advantage of educational programs and “to try everything your school offers” including co-op courses, and dual credits, in addition to many others. “There are so many opportunities in school to begin working towards a career in the construction industry.”
McMillan explains the benefits of participating in these programs and being exposed to the trades are two-fold: “If you do not enjoy it, the value of the classes is that it will teach you some very important practical life skills [such as] changing a flat tire, replacing your oil, switching out an old light fixture or repairing/renovating a home.”
On the other hand, “[if] you do enjoy it you might find out that you have been overlooking something [that] you excel in,” all while earning a good amount of money. You can be banking money and investing in your future rather than paying your way through college or university [or] living on loans that will take you years to repay,” McMillan explains.
Take a page out McMillan’s book: Find your career and kick ass.
All photos courtesy of Jamie McMillan.