Underrepresentation of women in the trades kept Becca Peters away from pursuing a career in heavy duty mechanics. Despite keen interest, she spent nearly three years studying business before breaking down and following her true passion. Now she’s representing the School of Trades and Technology as valedictorian at her June 7 convocation ceremony.
Peters remembers the turning point very well. She was in an Old Main hallway, right before a midterm, when she realized she was in the wrong program.
See below for Peters’ valedictorian address
“I was sitting in the hallway before class when I broke down crying and called my mom,” she said. “I finally told her I was in the wrong program.”
The fear of being the lone woman in a male-dominated field had kept Peters from pursuing the trades since high school. Her dad had suggested she try an automotive shop class, but she had no confidence and stayed away.
After her departure from studying business, a friend shared the provincially- and federally-funded Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) exploratory program and Peters eagerly signed up.
Through WITT, Peters and her classmates were given in-depth introductions to six heavy construction trades. The cohort met instructors and were given the opportunity to earn several safety certifications. A recruiting trip to the Canadian Navy Base Esquimalt in Victoria gave Peters a glimpse into the daily life of a tradesperson working with the navy. Thanks to WITT, she found these careers much more accessible and attainable for women.
“You get to try a little bit of everything. It’s designed to help people who need it and it’s a fantastic program,” she said. “If it wasn’t for WITT, I’d probably be sitting at a desk somewhere, typing away.”
Even after the field trips and insights into different career paths, she considered signing up for carpentry instead of Heavy Mechanical Foundation, only because there are more women in carpentry.
Instructor Lyle Hirowatari questioned Becca’s choice and encouraged her to pursue heavy duty mechanics. He could see she was truly interested and challenged by the work. Peters said Hirowatari was always supportive, and most importantly, not afraid to tell her when her performance wasn’t up to par.
“Lyle is someone who really cares. A lot of people don’t see it because he’s such a tough teacher, but he’s one of my favourite people.”
Now that her first year of studies is complete, Peters is looking to secure a local apprenticeship and eventually earn her Red Seal certification as a heavy duty equipment technician. Although she wishes she would have begun studies earlier, she’s incredibly proud to be where she is now and honoured to represent her class as valedictorian.
“Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do something,” said Peters. “It sounds so cliché, but it’s true. Just get out there and show them you can do it.”