When it comes to careers, there are many paths to success and fulfillment and the trades is one of them, says contractor and TV personality Kate Campbell.
“As a society we try our best to put people into boxes and I want to prove that the stigmas related to the trades are false,” Campbell told the Daily Commercial News in an email following the event. “You make good money, you can be incredibly successful, you’re constantly challenged and learning new lessons every day, you’re proud of your hard work and you are intelligent. I want students to know that they need to listen to their own intuition above anything else when it comes to their career choices and not try not to let anyone else’s opinions affect their choices.”
Campbell conveyed this message to students who attended the Expand the Possibilities: Young Women in Science, Technology and Trades conference held recently by Durham College. The college hosted more than 600 Grade 7 and 8 students from across Durham Region and Northumberland County, Ont. for this second annual conference.
Campbell is the owner of KateBuilds Inc. and a carpenter featured on HGTV’s Decked Out, Disaster Decks and Custom Built. She also released an independent web series, The Major House Renovation, featuring her and her husband Dave Coleman renovating their 150-year-old farm house.
As a student in high school, Campbell didn’t know what career path she would choose, but she knew that she didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day.
“Even knowing this, teachers and guidance counselors advised me to pursue a university education,” she recalled. “I was overwhelmed and lost. It wasn’t until my mom found an ad in our local paper for a women in skilled trades course based out of The Centre for Skilled Trades in Burlington, Ont., that she thought I would enjoy, that something clicked.”
She applied immediately and was chosen as one of 20 students out of hundreds of applicants.
“We studied everything and anything to do with the trades and I knew as soon as I picked up a circular saw for the first time that I had found a career path that I was passionate about,” she said.
Through speaking engagements, Campbell encourages youth to think about careers in the trades by showing them it’s fun, rewarding, lucrative and provides opportunities that other careers don’t. It also offers job satisfaction and the ability to work on your own home, she added.
“I also try to debunk the stereotype that trades people aren’t ‘smart’ by bringing up the fact that I graduated with a 93 per cent academic average and chose to go into the trades because I loved working with my hands,” she stated. “Many people go to university because they’ve been told that they have to in order to be successful. This thinking is false and out of date.”
It’s not always easy being a woman in a male-dominated industry but Campbell said that being a hardworking employee, regardless of gender, is the key.
“I’ve encountered some challenges along the way like tradesmen not taking me seriously, challenging my knowledge or telling me to ‘go home because I’m taking a man’s job’ but those instances are few and far between,” said Campbell. “Women only represent less than seven of the skilled trades workforce so I truly believe we’re at an advantage if we come in with a good attitude and work ethic because there are so many initiatives encouraging women to get into the trades.”
Campbell always tells people considering the industry not to be afraid to try new things, ask questions or make mistakes.
“Early on in my career, I took myself out of so many learning situations because I was in my own head and didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Campbell. “It wasn’t until I got out of my own way and actually made myself try things, that I learned. I made mistakes and I realized that everyone makes them and that they’re our biggest teachers.”
She also pointed out there are many different opportunities within the trades.
“If you start out thinking you’re going to be a finish carpenter and don’t like it, that doesn’t mean that you won’t like another trade or a different company,” Campbell noted. “Keep trying and keep pushing until you find the right fit.”
Follow Angela Gismondi on Twitter @DCN_Angela.