Posted on: April 3, 2018
As morning light broke on the HMCS Regina, and the wind whipped off the Pacific Ocean, many of the TRU women in trades students looked on in amazement of all the happenings, the routine, and the tradition of the morning. The ceremonial raising of the flag, the Standing of the Guard and. Of course, while these things are all new to those learning trades on dry land, it’s just another day at work for some of the female trades workers of the Royal Canadian Navy.
On March 12, 2018, a group of TRU Women in Trades students were privileged to take part in a day at sea with the Canadian Armed Forces. The day consisted of learning about working in the Navy. The WITT students received presentations on paid education and advancement opportunities, learning about benefits, and the possibility of travel. It was after the presentations when the fun started! Groups of women were whisked off to various stations around the ship to learn about everything from safety equipment, weapons training, engine control rooms and top-secret missile tactics.
Climbing up and down ladders from the port to the stern, women were able to see everything from the sleeping quarters to control rooms. Also, to break away from Navy stereotypes of canned foods and mess halls, the women were treated to a fresh buffet lunch and dessert station from chefs, which would rival those on the TRU campus. Even foodies would appreciate the culinary experience. Of course, the food was prepared by Red Seal chefs!
It was a full packed day, and as great as it was to learn about the different careers. However, it was the stories from the women on board who helped to resonate with those who came on the trip to see if they could consider a future in the navy.
One of those stories came from Catherine Schneider a pipefitter who works with Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) as a contractor for the Canadian Navy. She has worked directly with the Navy for four years, taking her pipefitting apprenticeship. Catherine considers herself very successful and surrounded by an amazingly supportive team with the FMF and the Royal Canadian Navy. She encourages any woman who is thinking of a career in trades, to consider the Navy as an exciting career avenue.
“If you have an inkling, and you’d like to better yourself, and you’re a hands-on kind of person, then go for it. You’re young, and you’ve got nothing to lose. At the end of it, you’ll have a Red Seal ticket, you’ll have a good paying job, and that opens up a whole bunch more doors. Just because you have a ticket doesn’t mean you have to do it forever, but it is really advantageous,” Schneider advised to those considering joining the Navy as a career path.
Officer Jesse Mason has been training to be an electrician, just like many of the women in the Trades and Technology building on campus. She is getting her apprenticeship hours in, she can work through problems, and she fell in love with the trade through her experience of working on ships. She advises women that the working for Royal Canadian Navy is not the antiquated or dismal experience of yesterday and highlighted all the positives to come.
“I would say the military is not like it was 20 to 30 years ago! They’ve really made an effort to change the culture and create an environment where women and men are equal in the workplace. I’m so thankful to work here.” Mason said earnestly of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Mason works long hours in all weather conditions, but it comes with perks as she spoke of a recent trip, which included docking the ship in Hawaii for five days. She speaks highly of her experiences, her job, and the Royal Canadian Navy and can only hope it continues to grow for females in trades.
“In trades, there are very few of us women. There are more in other support roles like clerks, or supply techs, which I’m hoping will change within the next couple of years. Honestly, I love the trades, and I think if more women had the chance to experience it they would love it too.”, Mason said hopefully.
Petty Officer, Second Class Stephanie McFadden, a recruiter at the Canadian Forces Recruitment centre in Victoria, echoed much of what Mason said of the perks of travel with the drawbacks of long hours. She encourages anyone who likes to travel to consider a career in the Navy.
“There’s a lot of different trades and if you’re looking on the website and looking at the different trades and you’re like ‘I don’t know what any of these are’ or ‘I don’t know how to do them,’ the Navy teaches you how to do all of them. Moreover, not only do they teach you how to do it, they’ll pay for you to learn how to do it! So, if you like traveling and you like being on the water, there’s a lot of trades to consider.” McFadden recommended.
McFadden’s last trip was with the navy allowed her to circumnavigate the globe for nine months!She is still in awe of all the travel opportunities her job has afforded her.
Of course, all three women have stories of sea life and globetrotting but admits the hours are long and hard. It can be a lot of time away from family and have a good support system helps. It’s not a life for everyone, but it is a life for some.
The TRU students left the ship at the end of the day with salt water in their hair, windburned faces and matching t-shirts to show off their comradery to Women in Trades thanks to RBC funding. All were happy to have been able to go on the trip, and some are looking at it as a potential career choice. It was a great adventure and demonstrated the multiple avenues for Royal Canadian Navy women in trades are as wide and vast as the ocean itself.