When Jenna Lipinski tells people what she does for a living, she says, “they either don’t believe me, because there aren’t a lot of women doing what I do, or they say that’s really amazing, you should be proud of yourself.”
Jenna is proud. Two years into her apprenticeship, she’s one of only three women bricklayers in Saskatchewan. As Jenna tells it, she found her calling more or less by accident.
As a single mother of two, Jenna was working “crazy hours” as a bartender. She wanted a career with steady daytime hours, a pension and security. A friend had suggested she get involved with the trades. “I thought, you know you’re right. I love being outside. I love building and creating things, so I started looking into the trades.”
Jenna’s timing was ideal. An acquaintance and owner of Frontier Masonry came into the bar where she worked, sat down for a beer and asked if she knew anyone interested in joining his crew. “I said, give me a try. I didn’t know anything about bricklaying, so he thought I wasn’t serious at first.” Two weeks later, Jenna called him to let him know she was serious. “And he said alright then. We’ll get you a pair of steel-toed boots and a hard hat, and get you working.”
Jenna didn’t know what to expect. “I was so scared the first day. I didn’t know how to use the saw or the tools. I had no experience, and no idea, but everyone was really helpful and supportive. I was given a chance, and I love it.”
For the next nine months, Jenna worked as a labourer, proving herself before starting as a Bricklayer. She cut holes in a pre-existing concrete block building, carted the blocks away in a wheelbarrow and cleaned up the work site. “It was hard. It took my body a while to adjust, but it was also amazing, and I’m in great shape now.”
Jenna works at residential sites, either alone or with a crew. She does a lot of stone masonry work, including fireplaces. “Most people don’t know that bricklaying is one of the oldest trades. Everything is done to the perfect millimetre. It’s also a lot of heavy lifting, but technology allows us to work smarter, not harder.”
Over the past two years, Jenna has attended the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology for apprenticeship training. Each year she’s involved in eight weeks of classroom training, both hands on and written testing. Next year she writes her Journeyman exam.
Jenna’s advice to women considering a career in the skilled trades is to keep an open mind. “Try a pre-apprenticeship course, and ask people about the trades they’re in. I didn’t even know how to use a drill before, but now I’m so much more handy around the house, confident and competent.”
Jenna’s plan is to stick with her trade and eventually get involved in training other apprentices. As she sees it, women are naturals in the skilled trades. “They pay attention to detail. Women are good at it.”
|Jenna is a representative of J♀urneyman, a national program that promotes, supports and mentors women in the unionized skilled construction trades. Read more about the J♀urneyman program.|