Crystal Nassichuk always knew she wanted to work with her hands.
The 27-year-old is doing that now in the first year of the automotive program at Camosun College.
“I always enjoyed mechanics,” says Nassichuk, wielding a digital torque wrench, the type that didn’t exist when she was a kid in her dad’s shop. “Growing up, my dad was an automotive mechanic and now, being in the shop is a comfort zone for me.”
Nassichuk’s dad still works, but with marine motors. The family moved here from Powell River when Nassichuk was a teen. She graduated from Stelly’s.
“I feel very lucky to be working in auto mechanics now,” she said, “though I did have concerns about going into it. Growing up I heard so much about it being a male-dominated trade but a lot has changed since I was in elementary school.
“And I knew I wanted to work with my hands, it’s satisfying to me. I’m really happy I’m here.”
There aren’t many women going through Camosun’s automotive program but it’s higher than it used to be, with 15.2 per cent of the college’s trades apprentices made up of women, compared to five per cent currently apprenticing in B.C.’s trades. Bruce Ralston, minister of jobs, trade and technology, estimated there will be 900,000 job openings in the next 10 years, at last month’s announcement of $1.8 million in provincial funding to support women in trades programs over the next two years.
To increase the number of women in coveralls, Camosun has its own branch of the Women in Trades Training program that attracts and curates women in the college’s growing trades programs to build a greater culture of women in trades. One of those initiatives is a monthly breakfast where Nassichuk met 23-year-old electrical foundations apprentice Cassidee Irmscher.
“Because of the breakfast I know a lot more people around the campus,” Irmscher said. “There’s about 25 people who come now, and it started with two. We’ve built a little community within our trades community.”
A Spectrum Community School grad, Irmscher waited three years to get into the electrical foundations program and is off to a successful start, moving through the self-directed option. Even before that she researched women in the electrical field and trades in general.
“Because it’s self directed I don’t actually mix with the class, which is three women and about 20 men,” Irmscher said. “I was concerned about how professional the school would be, and how masculine it would be, which it is not at all. It’s been great.
“I wanted something in the trades. I like having something tangible, it’s satisfying.”