Rebecca Chenier was working a job as a waitress and thinking about career options about six years ago when she saw a flyer advertising a pre-apprenticeship program through the Women's Enterprise Skills Training (WEST) of Windsor, Inc.
WEST helps women get in non-traditional industries by providing free tuition for their St. Clair College programs, free child care and bus tickets to help with transportation.
The single mother of three — with two girls and one boy — went into the program and hasn't looked back.
Chenier was recently hired at Hiram Walker and Sons Ltd. as the bottling mechanic, the first red seal tradeswoman the company has hired in Canada. She was recruited through WEST and Build a Dream, an organization that works to create equal opportunities for women and girls. It's part of the company's latest efforts to diversify the workforce.
"My oldest daughter, you can tell she's proud of me," said Chenier, who is also an ambassador for Build a Dream.
"She tells me that she's proud of me, which is the sweetest thing."
To get a red seal there is a school component and a work component.
When you finish your schooling and apprenticeship, you then qualify to take a government test and if you pass you get the red seal.
"I feel like not everybody makes it this far, so I know how much work you have to be willing to work the hours, you've got to be willing, to be determined," Chenier said.
"It was so much work, but it's been worth it and especially landing this new position."
Women in the workplace
Chenier said she didn't feel out of place as a woman working in trades.
"Being a woman … in the trade hasn't really come up for me until I started doing the job and realizing how few women there are there," she said.
"I want other women to know it's a career option for them."
Craig Dryburgh, Hiram Walkers' vice-president of manufacturing in North America, said it was important for the company to walk the walk after talking the talk.
"Just to prove that it's one thing saying those actions, but driving and following through on the actions is really important."
Dryburgh said he wants to make his workplace more diverse because it brings different perspectives.
"That helps us with different solutions to our problems and initiatives and really just our own good experience."
Chenier said she doesn't think this job is going to get old anytime soon.
"There's always going to be something to learn," she said. "I feel like no matter how long I'm doing the job, I'm going to come across something new."
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With files from Katerina Georgieva