Grit Nation - The Building Trades Podcast

Women in the Trades - Joann Greeley

September 19, 2021 Season 3 Episode 2
Grit Nation - The Building Trades Podcast
Women in the Trades - Joann Greeley
Show Notes Transcript

 Welcome to Grit NW.

I’m Joe Cadwell the writer, producer and host of the show and on today’s episode I will be speaking Joann Greeley.

Joann is a member of local 579 in Newfoundland Canada and she has a wealth of wisdom and insight to share on what it means to be a woman working in the trades.

We’ll open up our conversation by learning why Joann choose to be an electrician and what some of the challenges she faced early on in her career were.

We will then discuss the advantages of choosing a career as a blue-collar worker vs the over prescribed alternative of attending university to earn a degree.

Later we’ll look into Joann’s involvement with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices, and how this valuable outreach program is providing a first-choice career pathway to financial and professional success for those considering it.

And we’ll finish our conversation by understanding how important apprenticeship programs can be in bridging the ever-widening work force skills gap in both Canada and the US.

Be sure to check out the show notes after the episode for a more in depth look into the subjects discussed.

The Show Notes.

Red Seal Certification Info
https://itabc.ca/red-seal-program

United Brotherhood of Carpenters Apprenticeship Info
https://www.carpenters.org/join-us/

NW Carpenters Union
https://www.nwcarpenters.org/

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Joann Greeley:

Hi, I'm Joanne Greeley with UCB, local 579 in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I've got grit

Joe Cadwell:

Welcome to Grit Northwest. I'm Joe Cadwell, the writer, producer and host for the show. Now on today's episode, I will be speaking with Joanne Greeley. Joanne is a member of Local 579 in Newfoundland, Canada. She has a wealth of wisdom and insight to share on what it means to be a woman working in the trade. We'll open up our conversation by learning why Joanne chose to be an electrician what some of the challenges she faced early on in her career work. We will then discuss the advantages of choosing a career as a blue collar worker versus the overprescribed alternative of attending university to earn a degree. Later, we'll look into Joanne's involvement with the office to advance women apprentices, and how this valuable outreach program is providing a first choice career path to financial and professional success for those considering. We'll finish our conversation by understanding how important apprenticeship programs can be in bridging the ever widening workforce skills gap in both Canada and the US. Be sure to check out the show notes after the episode for a more in depth look into the subjects discussed. Now onto the show. Dwayne Greeley, welcome to the show.

Joann Greeley:

Thanks so much for having me, John. Really glad to be here today.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah. Joanne, thank you so much for taking your time to be on the show. I'm super excited to have you here as well. You are as far as I know, my first Canadian interview. So I'm going international with the podcast.

Joann Greeley:

That's awesome. Not only are you going international, but you're going the other side of Canada for the podcast,

Joe Cadwell:

that's for sure. And for a lot of our listeners who may not know Newfoundland, Newfoundland is about as far east as you can get in Canada, isn't it?

Joann Greeley:

And actually, Newfoundland and Labrador, is the most easterly point in North America. So about 10 minutes from my house is the most easterly point, the closest point from there is Ireland, and I can get there in about three hours by airplane.

Joe Cadwell:

Wow, that is Far East. I understand actually, that you're also your time. Your local time is a half hour different than the rest of the eastern seaboard and the rest of the US and Canada.

Joann Greeley:

Yeah, we are one of the very few places in the world that has a half an hour timezone. And we're the only ones in it, which is great and a pain in the butt. It depends what you're trying to do. And of course, Newfoundlanders come from a an Irish background, a lot of a lot of them do. And so of course, we have songs made up about the half an hour time difference, which you can always look up for a laugh.

Joe Cadwell:

All right, thank you very much. Maybe I'll include one in the show notes later on. So again, I want to thank you for being on the show I heard you about a month ago on another podcast. And you were talking about women in the trades and diversity and equity in the in blue collar craft. And I was so excited by what I heard from you know, you on that podcast, I reached out to you, as you know, and you agreed to be on my show. So I'm hoping that we'll just continue that conversation, Joanne, and you can tell the listeners a little bit about your background first, and then we'll just kind of take it from there. Awesome. Well,

Joann Greeley:

thanks so much, Jen. So I'm a red seal construction electrician. I've been in the trades for about 15 years, came to it later in life at 35. So I had already had several or a career before I started into the trades. One of my main pushes was my dad's electrician, he's five foot four. I am also of the staggering height of five foot four. So I just figured if he could do this work, certainly why couldn't I work through the program work my 7000 hours to get my red seal, which was really important to me. I did not want to see, I was not going to only do half the program, I was going to get that red seal no matter what. Because for me, I think working diligently it really I understood that the red seal was the top of the heap and it would open up all kinds of doors for me. So I worked in construction work on small medium, big jobs industrial and then lots of pipe of you know slugged lights from one end to the other. And then a few years back I started my own electrical company doing really electric one employee which is me and sometimes I have a helper which is my partner Take him out to, you know, pick up my tools and carry my stuff around for me, which is always fun and hilarious. And just recently, I started a position with the office to advance women apprentices in Newfoundland and Labrador. And my position is outreach. So what I am doing is talking to high school students, women and men about skilled trades as a first career choice. Because as we know, over the years job, skill trades sometimes gets the slagging as where, you know, blue collar less intelligent. You know, we get a bit of a slagging and I don't like that personally, because as I said, to a person who wouldn't hold a door for me one day with the ladder at a TV station, I said, you know, I'm the person who makes the electricity come to your teleprompter, you are the word person who reads the words off the teleprompter. So I feel that our jobs as blue collar workers, as we're called, is way more important than someone reading off a teleprompter. So that really fired me up to make sure that people understood when I talked to my friends, and they said, Oh, electrician, really. And then I told him how much I made. I told him what I was working on. And I think they were really surprised. There's a lot of people that think skilled trades, careers or low paying jobs. I'm 51 years old, I own my own house, I have no mortgage, I have no bills, I bought a little piece of land last year that you know, Newfoundland, I won't even tell you the prices, because you'll all want to live here. And that's the only debt I have at 51. I look at my other friends who are not necessarily working in blue collar jobs, and they're not having the same experiences I am. So I think it's really interesting that we talk about those things, especially when we talk to young people. And we need to explain to them that when you go back to school to do your training, you get a bump in pay, it's not you might get a bump, you do get a bump that happens guaranteed. So I always tell the students is go in and work hard. Try this trade. See if you love it. If you you know, put in your four years, get your red seal, work at it. Who knows where to lead you? You know, did I think I'd be back in an office again, after being out of one for almost 20 years? No? Do I love being in office? on cold days in the winter? On days like today where it's beautiful and warm outside? No, I'd rather be out wearing a house. But both have their advantages and disadvantages. So but I think it is really important for people to understand that our blue collar jobs are very well paying very interesting, very intelligent jobs. Oh, I'd

Joe Cadwell:

have to agree wholeheartedly. Joanne, having recently interviewed someone who has a podcast called Blue is the new white. Josh Solon. Josh has written a book about that, that very thought that, you know, the oversold notion that the only path to to financial and professional success is through a college degree is is sort of an outdated mindset now, and that the blue collar jobs, especially with the current administration, at least in the US is pushed towards infrastructure and rebuilding the infrastructure of our nation, these jobs can't be outsourced. Now you can walk away from a four year degree $100,000 in debt with with something that possibly could be outsourced to a third world country with someone without a degree. And but our jobs, these blue collar jobs where again, you put in your your not only your hands, but your head into your work and can provide a very lucrative pathway to success in America and Canada. And I'm so happy to hear that you are introducing this mindset to the young people in the in the call in the high schools.

Joann Greeley:

Yeah, it's really important. It's really important. And and I think that's what we really need to look at, you know, in Canada as well, we're talking about, we're gonna have a shortage of skilled labor in the next five years. You know, we have a large amount of people who are going to retire, and we have no backfill for that. So this is where we need to make sure that young people understand what the jobs are. We also need to make sure that unions and companies are reaching out to newcomers to Canada, we're reaching out to our indigenous population and to women, these jobs, there's absolutely no reason why we can't all be doing them. And you know, I've over the years I've been at this for 15 years, I've had people say all kinds of different, different things. And, you know, I said to a young fella one day when he was giving me a hard time I said, you know, my gender does not affect my ability to understand the theory of electricity and just walked away and of course, all the guys were like, whoo, burn. So, you know, that's really what it comes down to. We're just learning theories.

Joe Cadwell:

Right? We all we all start somewhere. As a woman in the trades, though, it sounds like that is probably not an isolated experience that that, that fellows comment to you? And how have you dealt with that over the years? Have you had much more of that? Or is it something that you just get, you know, kind of immune to,

Joann Greeley:

um, I don't think you ever get immune to it. The other thing is, is I don't think people who think that they're being funny that, oh, I'm just being funny. Oh, your, you know, your art looks so good in those pants. You know, I've always said, if I'm looking for that kind of information, I can go home and ask my husband. But I use a sense of humor. But that sense of humor, Don't think for one moment that that doesn't cut deep. They do these comments cut deep when you're continually. And you know, I wasn't continually told I wasn't welcome there. There's always one bad apple. And there's always one person who thinks they're just a little bit smarter than the rest of the group. And they're the class clown. And, you know, I'm all about class clowns, I love to have a great laugh, but not at someone else's expense. So I've had to fight for a lot of things that I've gotten. And my whole mandate was, I went into the trades at 35, I didn't want a 19 year old, who was coming out of trade school who didn't have the same voice that I did, to have to put up with that kind of stuff. So that's why I have always fought so hard. Or, for instance, I have a friend who she's an electrician, and has two kids. And she's trying to raise her kids, she should not have to deal with the crap any crap. And you know, I have always kind of taken the footing that, uh, well, if you're going to fire me, because I'm standing up and saying you can't say those things to me then go right ahead. Or, you know, your hard head stickers super offensive. Well, that's just the way it is. Me. I'm like, Okay, so here, I'm starting my timer, you can haul it off now. Or I know where your supervisor is, and your supervisor or get it haul it off. So you decide, you make that decision. And if that upsets you so much that somebody is telling you that you're being offensive, and you don't have the guts to stand up and say, Wow, I really don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. What can I do to change it? That's on you. That's not on me. And I think that's something that we all have to remember. Or that when these people are acting out, it's not necessarily about me personally, it's about their insecurities about their ability to do their job. And that's what it's come down to a lot of times is people don't believe that women are capable of doing this work. Would my sister go out and do this work? No, she's not interested in it, would my brother, he's not interested in it, me love it. So we need to stop saying that women don't like these jobs, we have to say, people don't like these jobs. Women love these jobs. People love these jobs, we need to stop putting a gender on it. And we need to make sure that when we're around a worksite if we're a man or woman, and we see a woman on that site, that we don't bug her, we don't let her know how she looks in her in her pants. And that we reach out Now me personally, I always say hi to every single trades women, I see I give them my phone number tell me if they ever need anything. And you know, I've had lots of guys that have done that for me too, and stood up for me. So I think it's really important that if you're a man who works on a job site with women, you know, it's the whole bystander effect. I've had some rotten things said to me in front of a whole bunch of people. And sometimes the guys all stand up and kind of giggle about it walk away, and then they'll come up to me later go, That wasn't very nice. And I said, Yeah, you couldn't have said anything five minutes ago. So I think it's really important for those people, if they don't want to actually deal with that type of thing at the time, you can always pull that other person away, who's being a bit of a pain in the butt, you can always call them aside and say, Oh, Jim needs to see or, you know, oh, come down and show me this. You can diffuse it in many ways. But I think it's really important that we all support each other. And that comes down to our indigenous brothers and sisters that are working on job sites are people of color bipoc people, new Canadians people? Well, for us, it's new Canadians, new Americans. We all have to start somewhere. And you know, at the end of the day, if I am a white person in Newfoundland and Labrador, I'm not an indigenous person. I'm an immigrant. We might go back 500 years, you know, we might be the oldest city in North America. But at the end of the day, somebody in Ireland got on a boat came to Newfoundland. So I think we need to really stop that mentality of this is our work. I hear that too. Like, you know, now that the number is With us anyway, the the numbers are down for construction. And it's, well, we got to get the guys to work. Well, you know what, we got to get the girls to work too. So we need to stop pretending that women aren't the breadwinners in their home. And you know, in my homeland, I make the most money. My husband is retired, he doesn't make a whole lot of money. A lot of the extras that happen in our house happened because of me and my work. So when somebody sits down at a at a job and says, Well, she doesn't need, she doesn't need this job, because she's a woman, but the guy next to me, I think that we're making some really big assumptions about people's lives and what their responsibilities are.

Joe Cadwell:

Absolutely. I can't agree with you more on that. As we all know, the work is hard enough, the the the hours, the uncertainty of the work, the physicality of the work, the stress that comes from meeting project deadlines, so the work is challenging enough. And then when you start adding, on, you know, gender bias and misconceptions about people's abilities, it really doesn't help the craft the trade or, or the industry that we're trying to do the job that we're trying to do. So it's super important that we do try to, you know, conduct ourselves as professionals at all all aspects of, of work and personal life and how you interact with people is hugely important. Fortunately, that the the organization that we work with United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America is really investing heavily in communication skills in, you know, developing a culture of professionalism that is inclusive and respectful of all it's, you know, we have a half a million members, as you know, across the US and Canada. So there's a lot of a long way to go. But I think by having people that are addressing it, and openly bringing this up, that we need to respect each other in order to get the work done in order to provide the best possible livelihood for ourselves and our families. Hugely important. So yeah. Yeah, so so more about the Office of advanced women apprentices. You said, you reach out to the high schools, and it's not just women, but But men as well in the high schools, and you're introducing something that's sounds pretty much in alignment with the Career Connections program that the UBC has out, what can you tell us about your, your interaction so far with the high school kids? And how are they receiving the prospect of a career in the trades?

Joann Greeley:

Yet, so at the office to advanced women apprentices has been around for 11 years. And our mandate is to support and mentor women working in skilled trades, and the red seal programs. So we help women from the minute that they would finish a trade school. So in Newfoundland Labrador, what happens is, we all do a nine month course, in whatever trade it is. And then we go to work some places have where you're indentured right away, and you're going to work, then go back to school, but we do school first. So our office then works with women, when they come out of school to help them with resume building. For career searches. We can also help women beforehand, if they're like, I want to work in a career, but I don't know what I want to do. We can help them look at what they want to work at what they're interested in. And then we make sure that they get to the Red Seal designation, so we help with any training that they need. But the biggest component for me personally for the office to advance women, apprentices is the the community groups that we have. And when I say community, I mean community of women. And we have all kinds of meetups. Now, of course, when we were all allowed to get together, we would have once a month, we could meet at a coffee shop and just have big conversations and and that's been super helpful to me to not feel like that I'm the only woman out there that may be dealing with with these things. So our office now because we've done so well here has opened up in PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. So it's my dream to see them right across Canada, because I think that they do such a great service. So they do a lot of outreach as well with small businesses, large corporations and say, You know, Jim, call welds, home construction, you know, you may have four employees, how do we get a woman in there in the mix? So getting to the small companies as well as the big companies. And we know that that is, that's works that works when we're affecting the smaller companies. That's where the construction changes the whole dynamic because now you know the person personally. And it's better that way. So when I joined them, my job was to come up with a program to reach out to high school students. Originally it was supposed to be me driving around and going to this to the high schools. But of course, we've all had to pivot in the last year. So I've now created an online class, if you will, we do a three part series. So for instance, the first day will be an introduction to trades. What is a skilled trades? What's a building trade? What's Red Seal me What's apprenticeship, then I talk about my trade as an electrician what I love to do. And when we originally started going through school, so my mandate originally was just for women. It was supposed to be meet up with young women and talk to them. But then we realized that, you know, we can't be separating people in a classroom all the time. Let's talk to all the students. And it would be no different if a male came in with a, you know, male Carpenter, why not a woman come in with a woman carpenter. So that's gone over really well. It's just talking to the students about this is another opportunity. And I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that, that building trades are for people who can't make it at university. And I always talk about my code book as an electrician. I mean, it's humongous. It's a thinking trade. What we do is trades people is you know, we make miracles, we build things out of nothing out of a pile of wood. We bring things together, we make them square, you know, we bring the electricity to the teleprompter. So it's a bit of magic going on there. And I always say one of my favorite stories was at, in my business doing really electric I went to a home and knocked on the door and the little girl and says door, she's about four. And I said, Hi, I'm Joanne, I'm the electrician, she goes, Oh, good. She goes, Daddy made sparks up in my bedroom. And Mom's really mad. So, you know, this little girl now sees a woman coming to fix things. And I think that's really important. It's important for us to be seen out there. You know, if you can't see, it can't be it. So if you've never ever seen a woman electrician, how do you know you can be one? You know, how do you know you can be a plumber. We've got a great video series is available now as well. And I'll give you the links to those and it's on YouTube. And we interviewed three different women about their trades and their trades careers. And one woman said, you know, when I was eight, I wanted to be a plumber. I have myself dressed up as a plumber fake tattoo on my arm. It's so cute. And she says in her interview. So when I decided to look at trades, I said, you know, reach for the stars go with your dream, you know, or reach for the toilet, whatever comes. So I think sometimes our dreams when we're young what we think we could be, then when we get older, we get shy and we say oh, you know. And so I love to see people step into those

Joe Cadwell:

roles. I do as well. I love that story. Because I do truly do believe you have to see it and and have those role models and know that that is a viable option for you. I think that in a large part. That's how I became a commercial diver as a as a young kid living on the East Coast. I was born in Massachusetts, my my grandparents coincidentally are from Quebec. And yep. But as a young kid, Jacques Cousteau, that was the that was the guys that love Jacques Cousteau, and, you know, watch the adventures of him going around the world and discovering discovering things underwater. And I think that that imprinted on me and that is the career path that I chose. So I do believe that you're exactly right. You know, these, these role models are really important and can make a big difference in, in younger people's lives. Is it? Is it a sanctioned apprenticeship program that you're working with? Oh, yes, yeah,

Joann Greeley:

we've got trade schools right across the province. Yeah. So it's the same red seal. Same program right across Canada.

Joe Cadwell:

Okay. And I'll admit, I've heard you say it a numerous number of times. Joanne Red Seal is not a term I am familiar with here in the US at least. And I was hoping you could explain a little bit more about the red seal. Right. So

Joann Greeley:

you would call it a journey leveled your journey down. So in Canada, we work about 7000, about listening 7200 hours to become an electrician, commercial electrician in Newfoundland, and that includes a nine month course. And then you go back to school three times to do block blocks, so to do schooling, and then working in between, and then we write an interprovincial Red Seal exam, and then that's four. That means I can work anywhere in Canada with my red seal. I can also work in the US as well. So I guess you just call it journey down.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah, we call it a journey level card. So our apprentices go through a four year long program. It's structured a little bit differently. It sounds like then what you're what you're talking about on Niarchos there but the the result is the same you once you graduate from the program and I'd like to consider our program a four year long construction college where you come out debt Free where you earn as you learn, and the only thing that you're honestly on the hook for financially during the four years are your books and those books at the end of four years about 250 $300 Mo. So, again, you know, a viable career path to a stable income profession that can carry you for 1520 25 years plus, and you come out debt free, it's, it's an amazing opportunity, we call it the best kept secret in the trades, the the the union apprenticeships. And it's, as we recognized, or we talked about earlier, the skills gap in America continues to grow. And in Canada, as well as it sounds like, and we need to encourage people to, honestly to pursue these type of careers, I'm so happy that, you know, the UBC, again, with their Career Connections program and with your office to see women apprentices in the trades, it sounds like they're, they're reaching out and making these connections.

Joann Greeley:

And I always tell young people to when I'm talking about that, you know, I know a young woman who's had completed the course, she had a red seal, she had her own house bought, she loved fast motorcycles, she has a fast motorcycle, she has a truck, you know. So at you know, at 30 years old, she's completely financially independent and is taking care of herself and does what she wants to do. So I think as well, there's not a lot of people at 30 years old that can say that. And we need to make sure that young people understand that the whole earn while you learn, you know, watch my own daughter go through university and come out with a degree after four years and a large debt load, and no possibility for work. So she had to go back to university and do another course in order to become a nurse. Now she's working as a nurse. But you know, when I tell someone else that 26, they have zero deaths because of schooling and we look at the debt that she carries, it's quite substantial. And debt equals stress, no matter what way you cut, that doesn't matter if you've got a debt load that you feel you can't manage. You're living in a stressful situation. So that's one of the things I love about construction is over the years, I've worked on some big mega projects and made some big mega bucks. And you know, just went out bought things just went up, bought my house and was like, oh, yeah, I just happen to have that money here. And then, you know, it's like, oh, should go to Europe for three months. Okay. So, you know, that kind of that kind of flexibility is also available.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly. Joanne, and, you know, again, not to take away any anything from folks that do want to go to college, I'm often reminded of that by my wife who did go to college, and that is what she wanted to do. And that that worked out really, really well for her. But to just have high school guidance counselor's push people to college in order for them to try to figure out what they want to do in life seems again, a disservice to to a large portion of our population, as we know, most people are not going to be going to college and the ones that are you know, sort of coerced into going there and again, find themselves in debt. And then possibly in a career that they didn't really foresee for themselves further down the road, it sounded like a great idea to invest in when you were 1819 20 years old. But when you find it, you're 40, you know, coming into your 40s, mid 40s. And you're in a job that you really don't like and that wasn't your passion that again seems like a disservice. So not taking anything away from people that want to go to college, but you know that the trades offer a great avenue for success as well. So Joanne, this has been a great conversation, where can people go to find out more about women in the trades in Canada and more about you and your company?

Joann Greeley:

You can look us up at the office to advance women apprentices. And as I said, we have several offices across the country. And I'll give you our link to our website. You can also look us up at YouTube and check out some really cool videos that we just made. Showing women working in construction trades again, the you know, if you can't see it can't be it.

Joe Cadwell:

Joanne, thank you so much for taking your time to be on the show.

Joann Greeley:

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Joe Cadwell:

My guest today has been Joanne Greeley. Find out more about women working in the trades or to read a transcript of our conversation. Be sure to check out the show notes on your smart device or by visiting the Grit Northwest website at Build NW dot o RG forward slash podcast that's billed NW bout o RG forward slash podcast that wraps up this episode of Grit Northwest. You know someone you think might benefit from this episode. Please be sure to share with them. If you haven't already joined the grid nation. What are you waiting for? Look for the link in the show notes or by visiting the website you'll be eligible to win grits swag, and an exclusive backstage access pass to get an even more in depth look into the shows making the content. All this more when you join British. Thanks again for listening. And until next time, this is Joe Cadwell reminding you to work safe, work smart and stay union strong