Sara Wilson of Sidney holds the copper boat she built at the Canadian National Sheet Metal Competition in Ontario. It earned her second place. Wilson is in her fourth year of apprentice work at Seaspan's Vancouver Island shipyards in Esquimalt.

Sara Wilson of Sidney holds the copper boat she built at the Canadian National Sheet Metal Competition in Ontario. It earned her second place. Wilson is in her fourth year of apprentice work at Seaspan's Vancouver Island shipyards in Esquimalt.

Saanich trades student earns national attention

Sara Wilson is making a name for herself in a very male-dominated industry.

Sara Wilson is making a name for herself in a very male-dominated industry.

The sheet metal apprentice worker was recently recognized by Camosun College for being the school’s top all-round trades student, and came in second in a national competition for sheet metal apprentices.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Ken MacDonald, Camosun’s sheet metal program leader. “Year after year, she was the top of her class. She’s quiet, poised – she’s a model student. And her skills were not only good with textbooks and written tests, she was also very good in the shop working with her hands and the materials.”

Wilson, 29, is newly graduated and now finishing her apprenticeship at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards. And having received Camosun’s John Drysdale Memorial Award and a second-place finish at the Canadian Sheet Metal Apprenticeship Competition in May, she should have no trouble finding a career upon completing her red-seal journeyman certification.

“Right after high school I went to university and got my Bachelor of Arts. I worked at a coffee shop for a while before I realized I wanted a career that I enjoyed,” Wilson said. “I wanted to find a career I would love and I was thinking of things I enjoyed growing up – hands on things like Lego and Meccano.”

Her first taste of the trades was through Camosun’s trades exploration course, where students get to try their hand at a variety of trades before choosing a more focused path. She quickly discovered sheet metal was where her passion lied.

“Just the laying out of the pattern on the metal, figure out how to fit it on there, cutting it out and folding it up, putting all the pieces together. It’s like a puzzle,” Wilson said of her trade. “It’s very cerebral. You have to do a lot of thinking, and a lot of hands-on work. Time just flies, I have a lot of fun doing it.”

Wilson was nominated by Local 276 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association to represent Vancouver Island at the competition in Windsor, Ont. Competing against 10 other apprentices – all men – participants had a drafting test, theory exam and a building component to complete in just two days.

“It was stressful,” she said. “I didn’t think I would’ve done so well, but they called my name for second place and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”

MacDonald says more and more women are taking the trades programs at Camosun, specifically in the last couple of years.

“It’s taken a while to get to that point. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better,” he said about the gender balance in the trades. “A lot of (women) really have an affinity for working with their hands, once they (find) they can do the work. It might be because sheet metal is a little bit more creative.”

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, only 5.9 per cent of tradespeople in Canada are women. And 98.1 per cent of sheet metal workers in the country are men.

The numbers don’t bother Wilson, who says she’s treated just like any other employee at Victoria Shipyards.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the guys don’t mind you’re there, as long as you’re working hard,” she said.

The best part, Wilson said, is following a career path she’s proud of, and going to a job she truly enjoys.

“Every day in a coffee shop is the same – it’s all repetitive. But working with your hands, actually building something, it’s always different and you leave at the end of the day with a concrete result,” she said. “I love that.”

To learn more about Camosun’s trades programs, visit camosun.ca/learn/areas/trades-apprenticeships.html.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

Just Posted

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read