Prince Edward Island woman makes big switch

Trade HERizons key factor in Tara Tierney’s career change to welding

Mary MacKay comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 4, 2014

After discovering she had an aptitude and appetite for the welding trade through Women’s Network P.E.I.’s Trade HERizons program, Tara Tierney became a welding apprentice at Complete Fusion Welding Ltd. in Charlottetown and is registered to do her first apprenticeship block at Holland College this January.

©Guardian photo by Mary MacKay

Tara Tierney knows firsthand what a difference a year can make.

Last year at about this time this child and youth care worker was about to graduate from the 12-week Trade HERizons career exploration course after getting some hands-on experience in trades such as carpentry, electrical and automotive, and technologies like aircraft gas engine turbine and wind turbine technology.

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Now she is working fulltime in her newly chosen trade as a welding apprentice and is registered to do her first apprenticeship block at Holland College this January.

“I’ve got man hands now. No fake nails or anything,” laughs Tierney as she takes a break from a busy workday at Complete Fusion Welding Ltd. in Charlottetown.

Last fall when Tierney discovered Trade HERizons,  a program presented by Women’s Network P.E.I., she was working a casual position as a child and youth care worker and only getting a few shifts a month.

As a single mom of a young son, she decided to do a career change that would hopefully lead to something more stable.

“I went into Trade HERizons with an open mind and no expectations. I was really open to all the trades, particularly welding. My father has been a boiler maker welder for 30 years, so I thought I may be able to do it, too. When I walked into the shop at Holland College in Georgetown I really felt at home there,” she says.

“As soon as I walked in the shop I said, ‘I think this is it. I think this is the trade that I want to get into.’ I loved the smell of the metals and the noise, getting dirty.”

After a few return visits to the Holland College welding shop, she decided to make the big career switch.

“I wasn’t really intimidated at all. There are many male welders, but you don’t hear a lot about women welding on Prince Edward Island. It’s more so in the western provinces. But I thought I would give it a shot, so I gave it 100 per cent and jumped right into it,” she says.

Tierney’s apprenticeship at Complete Fusion Welding, which began in January, has been a day-by-day learning experience that includes in-shop work as well as on-site jobs.

“I like repetitiveness to a certain point, but it’s kind of a grey trade. It’s not black and white. You do have certain jobs, time frames and deadlines that you have to meet, but when I come to work I’m not really sure what the job’s going to be that day until I get here,” she says.

The fact that it’s not an easy desk job was also something this petite woman had to also factor in to her new career decision.

“I’m probably in the best shape of my life right now. There is some heavy lifting at times involved — up to 50 pounds. It is physically demanding but there are a lot of days that it’s not so much . . . , but yeah I’m getting a good set of muscles doing it,” she smiles.

Tierney is determinedly muscling her way towards earning her Red Seal in welding in the next three to four years.

She credits the Trade HERizons program and Women’s Network P.E.I. staff for where she is today.

“I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore the welding trade,” she says.

“They supported me throughout the (process) and they also challenged me to explore other trades to really make sure that this is what I wanted to do. They were great through the whole thing.”

About Trade HERizons

• Trade HERizons is a Women’s Network of P.E.I. program funded in whole or part by Canada-P.E.I. Labour Market Development Agreement and/or the government of Canada through the Canada-P.E.I. Job Fund.

• Trade HERizons is an exploration project for women interested in trades (carpentry, electrical, automotive, welding, etc.) and technologies (aircraft gas engine turbine, wind turbine technology, etc.).

• Trade HERizons is a full-time, 12-week, free course that starts Jan. 5, 2015.

• People interested in participating must attend a Trade HERizons information session, fill out an application form and participate in an interview with Women’s Network P.E.I. staff. If selected to participate in Trade HERizons, participants need to meet with an employment counsellor to discuss plans.

• Trade HERizons information sessions for potential participants and/or service providers will be held at the Royalty Centre (40 Enman Cres.) in Charlottetown on Dec. 9, Room 236, and 9 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 10, Room 119, 1p.m.

• For more information, contact Women’s Network P.E.I. (WNPEI), call 902-368-5040 or toll free 1-888-362-7373, email info@wnpei.org or www.wnpei.org/trade-herizons or Facebook www.facebook.com/wnpei