Getting into a non-traditional job such as carpentry was not even a consideration for Tina Siddall growing up in the east end of Saint John in a rural setting.
“I credit my dad for the path I have chosen,” says Siddall who now works as a carpenter. “I believe it was from working and being with him all the time while I was growing up that I developed the aptitude to build and repair things.”
Siddall had enrolled at a post secondary education institution and became an apprentice in the field of carpentry. In addition to her studies, she also needed to get hands-on training with willing employers who could provide her with work experience to fulfill each year of her apprenticeship.
“At my present job, I don't work with any other women who are doing a non-traditional role,” says Siddall. “However, while doing my apprenticeship, I have worked with female scaffolders.”
“I think women are more reluctant to enter into a non-traditional field as it can be very seasonal and you do need to find a willing employer,” says Siddall.
Siddall arrived at her current job approximately 23 years ago. “I worked as a custodian prior to this but was always looking for a more challenging role,” says Siddall adding that she saw an opportunity for women in the trades and thought she deserved the job as much as anyone else.
She now has a range of carpentry experience having also worked for residential contractors, on large construction projects, and even assisted with the Marco Polo Project.
In her current job, Siddall notes that her tasks and duties vary quite a bit. “I could be doing carpentry today and masonry tomorrow,” says Siddall. “In my job, I touch on most trades, from fabricating and welding to outdoor work.”
She adds that she has a certain workload that she's responsible for including planning, purchasing materials, building and finishing the job in a timely fashion. “I love the diversity [work tasks],” says Siddall.
“What I enjoy most is when I can stand back and realize what I can do!” says Siddall. “That there is nothing wood or metal that I cannot repair or build... what an incredible thing to say.”
There are challenges though that she notes. “I now know I am not as strong as my peers, so I have to find an alternate way of handling things,” says Siddall. “I also feel because I did not have the same opportunities and life skills as my peers that I have to learn so much more.”
Siddall also points out that some of the barriers she had to face being in a non-traditional role would be being accepted and being part of the “club”.
“I have had many issues but I truly believe the good far out weighs the bad,” says Siddall realizing she should have started this career at a much younger age.
“My most memorable experience is the reaction of the kids I meet during the course of my work when they realize I am a girl,” says Siddall.
Siddall added that she chose to stay in the field because of the diversity and opportunities it gives her. “I also love the pay,” Siddall adds.
When asked what advice she would give to young students, Siddall encourages students to complete high school. “Without the basics of math, I wouldn't be in my field today and I know I would not have passed my Provincial Exam.”
“Take every opportunity and even volunteer in order to gain the experience,” adds Siddall. “The talent that some people have is incredible.”
“I now realize that we can do any task and the opportunities are there for us equally,” says Siddall on the topic of women in non-traditional careers. “We may have to work harder but we can do it.”
"Don't be afraid to ask for help, there are people out there who want us to succeed,” adds Siddall. “We deserve this chance so go for it!”