By Minal Abhange
Changing attitudes and empowering women is exactly what Catherine Kenway was setting to do when she decided to pursue a career in trades.
“The sheet metal trade is one of the most varied and diversified of all the skilled trades — a lot of work we do involves reading plans, determining materials and then measuring, bending, and cutting sheet metal to make products,” she says. “Accuracy and attention to detail is key on the job at all times.”
Catherine, a graduate of CNA’s Sheet Metal Worker program, admits it can be rare to see woman working in the field; however, times are changing.
“Women are still fairly new to the game. There is a lot of interest and women are eager to learn, to get better, to be the best, and to see how far they can take their skill.”
Growing up in the Burin Peninsula, Catherine was raised to freely choose her career path. From a young age she wanted to pursue a more non-traditional career – “something creative,” she jokes. However, she never imagined choosing sheet metal work.
“I was looking to do something hands-on and finding work immediately after graduation was a bonus. It reinforced the belief that if you are determined to do something, the sky is the limit. Coming out of high school, I was very uncertain what to expect,” Catherine reflects. “However, the program exceeded my expectations. The highlight for me was working in shop class to practice and hone different skillsets to create some amazing projects.”
Like father, like daughter
Following in her father’s footsteps and pursuing sheet metal work as a career changed the course of her life. She says having her father share his knowledge was an asset and has played a big role in her success.
“My father has been instrumental in my success,” she says. “I had invaluable access to an expert in the field — someone who told me firsthand the ins and outs of the job, and with precision how to excel in the field.”
Not only does Catherine enjoy working in the field, it gives her the creative freedom to maintain a perfect balance in her life.
“There’s any number of different things I could be working on – I’m never doing the same job over and over. One day I could be working on a plane, while another day I would be taking apart the series of decks on a ship so they can lift a generator out from a lower deck,” she says.
Typically you would use sheet metal to build roofs, rain gutters, siding, ventilation, or heating and air-conditioning duct systems. However, often times someone in the trade will also work with plastic and fiberglass to develop various other materials.
Catherine’s first job with Viking Air (an aircraft manufacturer of parts and systems based in British Columbia) was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life, she says. Since then she has also worked on several projects with Soldiers Pond on the province’s east coast. Currently she is working with Kiewit Corporation in Marystown as a Sheet Metal Mechanic.
“At Viking Air, I worked on airplanes a lot and it was an amazing opportunity. Being female definitely had its challenges, as there were always men who still don’t accept women in the field. But I’ve always worked hard and proved myself, and done the job.”
A mother of two young children, Catherine is very humble when discussing her career and personal achievements, but is comfortable representing the change she wishes to see for the future of women in her trades.
“The many women working in trades today are doing more than just their job. They are changing the world and the future — not just for themselves, but for everyone,” she says. “If you’re a woman thinking of getting into the trades, go for it! If it’s your passion learn as much as you can. Doors that were shut continue to open for women. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. It might even be harder for you than it is for others. But I promise you it will be all worth it.”
For more information about CNA’s Sheet Metal Worker program visit www.cna.nl.ca.