Connie earns while she learns
Here’s how she did it
Connie Ramey isn’t your typical first-year apprentice carpenter, and her path to her career is unique. Having had three children in her early adult years, Connie embraced her role as a stay-at-home mom for over a decade. “At that time I made big sacrifices for my kids. I wanted to be around as much as possible,” Connie recalls. “I had a few random odd jobs; housekeeping and painting… Those jobs provided that flexibility.”
However, as her life changed, Connie found herself longing for a career. “Now I’m happily unmarried, and financially independent. My kids are no longer ‘kids.’ A career is something I’ve always wanted. I knew time wasn’t on my side, and I needed to start earning a wage as fast as possible. That’s part of why I chose to enter the trades,” Connie says. “It was a logical decision for me. I couldn’t afford to be out of the workforce for four or five years.”
At 46, Connie is a first-year carpentry apprentice with Penticton-based Greyback Construction. When first thinking about a trades career she learned about BC’s Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP). After sitting down with a Trades Employment Specialist her trades path became clearer. “The folks at STEP got me set up at Okanagan College. I enrolled in the college’s carpentry/joinery Foundation Program – it helped me sharpen up my math and receive hands-on training with tools,” says Connie. “I also got trained up for OFA3 and WHMIS which helped tremendously when I was looking for a construction company to hire me on.”
STEP assists British Columbians by kick-starting their career in the skilled trades and beyond. STEP is a no-fee service focused on people who are non-EI clients, lack certification, are employed in low-skilled positions, or who have not graduated high school. STEP assists eligible clients by various methods from job placement to directing individuals to appropriate training courses. For more information on the diverse services STEP provides, contact an office in your region.
“(STEP) has been fundamental in connecting me with the right resources”, Connie says. “Not very many people know about this service – (Trade Employment Specialists) provide career advice, mentorship, and tailor personalized apprenticeships.” Connie’s advice is pretty clear. “Anyone who is thinking about a career in the trades – make use of it!”
As Connie reflects on her path into the trades she becomes impassioned. “People need to be educated about the resources available to them – STEP is phenomenal. I’m proud of my position,” Connie beams. “There aren’t many women who would take on what I have, especially at my age. I’ve always wanted a career and now I’m on my way to having one.”
Connie’s journey has just begun, even though she is already working. Over the next three years she will continue to get on-the-job experience, learn from mentors, and ultimately graduate as a Red Seal carpenter. With over one million job openings expected by 2020 in BC, skilled-trades workers like Connie are poised to reap the benefits both now and in the future.
How Connie’s story connects with the BC Jobs Plan
- Part of BC’s Skills and Training Plan is to ensure there are multiple pathways to graduation and career development for all British Columbians. Connie’s career path exemplifies the diverse environment of BC’s skilled trades.
- Beginning in 2013/14, BC will be offering students financial assistance for in-demand trades and technical programs, and spending an additional $5 million per year through the Canada-BC Labour Market Agreement for workers to take on higher-skill/higher-pay work and help sectors address specific training needs.
- BC’s STEP program is a no-fee employment program that works to match potential employers with workers and assist eligible people with opportunities for training.