Four years ago, Calli Doucette made the tough decision that all high school graduates have to make. What do I do next? While Calli’s parents supported her career choice, her friends had little to say. That was then.
“Now because they’re getting out of college and university and starting at minimum wage with school debt, they look at me and say, you know what, you’ve been working, you’re doing well in life, they’ve treated you great, I really should have gotten into the trades,“ says Calli, who encourages her friends to find out what they’re good at.
Calli is a fourth year electrical apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 303. She’s always had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. Growing up in the small town of Wainsleet in Ontario’s Niagara Region, Calli helped her Dad with whatever needed fixing, from truck engines to barn building. But it wasn’t until a grade 12 co-op program, when she and a group of students built a Habitat for Humanity home from start to finish in just four months, that the future seemed set.
“At the end I said to myself, yes this is what I want to do,” recalls Calli. “When you look back and think, I really did it, that was the best. That clicked for me.”
After a one year Sheridan College pre-trade program for electricians, Calli got a call from the union, and was hired. As a commercial and industrial electrical apprentice she travels across Southwestern Ontario, wiring hospitals, schools and manufacturing facilities. Each day is different. That’s what she likes, freedom, variety and new challenges.
Calli’s advice to young people, who are now weighing their career options, is to look at the skilled trades this way. “It’s a career, not a job. Follow your instincts and stick with it. The trades offer a lot of options.”
Calli is about a year away from completing her apprenticeship, blocks of schooling and the final test before becoming a certified electrician. As part of her participation in the “Build Together, Women of the Building Trades” program that promotes careers in the skilled trades to women, she talks about the skilled trades and her experience in high schools, and encourages other young women to make their mark in Canada’s construction industry.
“Everyone notices you. So you work hard, you know what you’re doing, and you’ll go far in the trades.”