Construction careers run in Flannery Bolger’s family. With an urban geographer for a grandfather, an architectural technologist for a mom, and a projects manager for a dad, quality time was often hands on. She remembers helping her mom build the front porch and balcony of their home in downtown Ottawa. “And it’s still there” Flannery can attest – she still lives in Ottawa where she’s completing the Building Construction Technician (BCT) program at Algonquin College.
Flannery is one of only four girls out of three classes of students in the BCT program. But she has a passion for construction that can’t be outmatched. There have been a lot of twists and turns as Flannery figured out her path. She left high school before graduating and worked in veterinary medicine for several years before she heard of the Sustainable Building and Design program at Fleming College. That gave her the push to complete her high school diploma, and she’s challenged herself in a lot of ways since then.
Already she’s acquired experience on some interesting projects, including the construction of a new public library in Wilberforce, a small town in Highlands East Municipality in Ontario. It was a turnkey project her Sustainable Building and Design class completed. “We got to do it all – the foundation, laying concrete, rough-in, insulation, walls, windows. Learning on the job site, you walk away feeling proud, knowing you’ve accomplished something.”
In both her previous and current program, the hands-on courses have really shown Flannery what she’s made of, and that makes the time fly. “It’s so engrossing that 4 hours in the shop feels like half of that.” And good thing too, because her current program is condensed with, on average, 6 shop classes a week, where she’s up to her elbows learning the tools and techniques of the business.
And why the Building Construction Technician program rather than a trade and apprenticeship program? “When I was first thinking of going back to school, I thought about plumbing so I could open an all-women plumbing company. But I didn’t want to be doing the same things everyday—I like being able to do it all.”
Looking ahead to what Flannery ultimately wants to do, knowing “it all” is going to come in handy. See, she’s not just interested in building new, she wants to make the old new. “Buildings are a huge part of our history. Some have been standing as long as our country is old. I want to see them last.” She’s keen on preservation when it comes to buildings, but also the people who make their lives in those buildings. Flannery’s goal is to get her Building Code License and become a contractor who specializes in remodeling homes for elderly and disabled people.
“For me, having my independence made a difference in my life” she says, and from that experience she’s developed a strong motivation to make sure others have that same independence.
Flannery is thriving in her program and has incredible drive and vision for her future. Construction has really brought her into her own. In figuring out her career, she took the road less travelled by women, but she hopes that won’t always be the case. “More girls need to get into this,” she says. “It’s hard and it feels great when you see what you can create. It’s not a gendered thing. It’s a capability thing.” Flannery herself is walking proof.