Vanessa Taylor bought her first house in January of this year in Lorneville. She adopted a yellow lab who she named Charlie and as she puts it, she is “ genuinely happy” with all aspects of her life .
Taylor grew up in Bonny River, a small community outside of St. George. She joined the Millwrights Union 2262 in September 2010, and at the time she was the only female Millwright in the union in NB. She received her certificate in June of 2010 in Saint John at NBCC.
When asked whether she was always interested in becoming a Millwright Taylor replied: “No, definitely not.” After high school she went to university in Fredericton to pursue a degree in social work. “Turns out I really just wanted to party” comments Taylor, “I basically ‘wasted' 3 years and a lot of money at university”. She worked for 5 years at a group home for adults with special needs which allowed Taylor to realize that social work was not the path for her. “I no longer enjoyed it the way I once had” mentioned Taylor. She decided to make a big change and return to school.
After talking to a few of her friends who had pursued a career in the trades, she began to researching the various opportunities that were offered at NBCC Saint John. The area of Industrial Mechanics attracted Taylor due to its versatility and variety. “In the course you get to make things on a Lathe, a milling machine, we also learned different types of welding. It was an awesome course that taught me more than I actually thought I could learn.” As Taylor explains it, the name of the certificate is “Industrial Mechanics” but once you work with a union you become a “Millwright”. If you work as a full time employee with a company then you are a “Journeyman”.
A Millwright does a variety of jobs, “I am called by the Millwrights Union 2262 for jobs that come up in mills or power plants to name a few places. It could be a scheduled maintenance job or an emergency fix that suddenly came up. We replace parts of machinery that have broken or are close to breaking or maybe it's just time for it to be replaced on a scheduled shut down. We could be replacing bearings, fixing conveyor belts, or maybe replacing a part completely. We work on pumps, motors, clutches, or we could have to align equipment, just to name a couple things.
The great thing about the job is that I never know what I will be doing on the next job or who I will be working with. And if there is something that I am unsure of I always work with a Journeyman that I can swamp with questions if need be “
In 2006 there were 75,900 Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics (except textile) in New Brunswick. 1.5% of those are w omen.
When deciding what career to pursue Taylor was looking for a job that she could enjoy while maintaining financial stability. “I love the feeling of showing up to a new job and seeing all your friends who you may not have seen for a while. I also love meeting new faces and learning new ways to do things that you may not have thought of. Every job is different so it's pretty exciting seeing all the different machinery and problems that arise in the different places we work. Since taking the course I have been able to purchase my first house as well as be financially stable by myself, so the pay isn't bad.” Taylor comments with a smile.
One of the qualities Taylor attributes to her success is the ability to be a good listener. She states the importance of listening to those that have done the job before you. “I think some apprentices sometimes think they know it all after taking a 40 week course. The truth is the course is really just preparing you for what you may see in the trade. I have learned so much from the guys that I have worked with, and from asking lots of questions. Also, if you do the work for yourself and not rely on someone else to do it, you will learn a lot more and become a better Millwright. You have to be willing to listen to those that have done the job before you and be able to handle criticism as well.”
Although Taylor is a very successful Millwright; she too has had to deal with her share of challenges. “ I think there is a very common misconception that there will be some type of backlash from a woman doing a ‘man's job.' 99.9% of the men that I have had the privilege of working with have been so great to me. They are constantly telling me how wonderful it is that I chose this, and most of them are excited to show me what they know. Most men are a bit too quiet or timid to even offend me when I first work with them. Once they recognize that I just want to be one of the guys and treated the same as them, they loosen up and realize I'm not there to get them to do my work for me. Taylor comments that as a woman it's important to focus not only on the financial benefits that a job provides but also to work hard and have pride in your work. “It is because of that I work super hard to prove I am there to do the work and not get a free ride because I'm a girl.”
The Success Stories webpage encourages women and men to take up non-traditional jobs, to encourage students to break through the gender wall. When Taylor was asked how she felt about these perceptions she very strongly pointed out “…as cheesy as it sounds if you really want to do it, you can.” When Taylor began looking at a career in Industrial Mechanics, she had no prior knowledge of mechanics; she researched the course as well as the jobs in the area. “Don't assume there are going to be millions of job offers after you finish school. I have been very lucky (to stay close to home), however I know if need be, I must go where the work is.”
Her greatest advice? “Pay attention, learn as much as you can, and never feel stupid. We've all been new to something and if you want to pursue this profession, do you best. Teachers, employers and co-workers will appreciate it if you are always trying and not slacking. It will get you far.”
What does success mean to Taylor?
“If you can say you're genuinely happy with all aspects of your life, I believe you are successful. So with that, I can say with confidence, that I am successful.”