Workforce Profiles look at the people behind Workforce WindsorEssex’s 120+ In-Demand Jobs. Each week, we talk to a different professional for an inside look into their work.
This week we got to hear from Nicole St. Amour, who is an Industrial Electrical Apprentice at Valiant Machine and Tool in Windsor.
How did your journey in this trade start?
I got interested in this career after I went to a Build a Dream March break camp and after the Manufacturing Day Tour (hosted by Workforce WindsorEssex and the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation). I love that I got to tour and try out a couple of trades – I tried carpentry, machining, electrical and auto mechanic. At the Build A Dream camp I thoroughly enjoyed the electrical day and wanted to find out more about the trade. From there I did two things- first, I joined the St. Anne’s Robotics team (Saints Bot #4688) and got to expand my knowledge about the trade even further. Secondly, I got a summer student position at Valiant to see the atmosphere an industrial electrical would typically work in.
After finishing my summer position at Valiant I went back to high-school and started my co-op and OYAP (Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program) placement here at Valiant. This meant that every hour that I accumulated during my placement would go towards my apprenticeship hours. During my placement I also took the Dual Credit Program at St. Clair College. This program allowed me to take a college course once a week while still in high-school. After my co-op placement at Valiant they signed me up as an apprentice through the ministry. I graduated at the end of June and began working full time with Valiant the first week in July. I have been working full time here for about a year and a half, and currently attend trade school at St. Clair College at night twice a week.
What is a typical day like on the job at Valiant?
An average day on the job for me is usually running cables from device to device or from the main panel to a device such as a switch, push button, or stack-light. Sometimes I get to wire up motors and do some work inside the panel also. I typically work from 7am-3:30pm Monday to Friday, and the occasional Saturday if it is busy on the shop floor.
What are your next steps?
To become an Industrial Electrician I have to complete my apprenticeship. In order to do that I must work nine thousand hours with a company that is willing to sponsor me. While working with the company I also have to complete 840 hours of schooling. After completing all this I will write my CofQ test in order to get my Red Seal and become certified as an Industrial Electrician (442A).
What is the best part of your job?
The part I enjoy the most about my job is being able to see a project start from nothing to being up and running ready for the company to ship it off. Another thing I enjoy is that there are always new jobs and customers coming into the shop so I get to learn about new things and how they work. I really enjoy that I get to problem-solve and use my hands, and that I don’t have to sit at a desk all day.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I would say that the most challenging part of my job is learning about the different parts, but I do enjoy that challenge.
Also, on some job sites the males don’t want to take orders from me because I am a young female and they tend to go to the other electricians even though they are working for me. On one service trip, the contractors that were working for me wouldn’t come up and ask me questions about their task. They would go and see the other electrician on service who was in charge of another machine. If he didn’t know the answer, they would figure it out themselves and complain about how difficult it was. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t choose to ask for my help, but that’s going to happen sometimes. I just remember that I’m there for a reason- I have the knowledge and determination, I am good at my job.
Is this a career you see yourself in long term?
I absolutely see myself in this career long term. I love the atmosphere and the people I work with but most importantly I love the work I am doing. Every task gives me more to learn and look forward to the next day. This career has many things that I like doing such as troubleshooting, reading schematics to create electrical circuits, and installing control devices such as switches and relays.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Attending and participating in events such as Build a Dream and Workforce WindsorEssex’s Manufacturing day helps you get a better understanding of the different skilled trades out there. I would recommend taking construction and Manufacturing courses in high school as well as taking co-op and a dual credit course. If you are able to, Co-op and OYAP are wonderful ways to test out a career you think you might be interested in. By actually doing the tasks in that field of work, it becomes so much clearer as to if this is the right field of work or not. It also teaches you a lot about the working world such as responsibility, and teamwork and helps you learn skills you will need in that field of work should you decide to continue with it.
If you aren’t sure what trade you want to get into ask different companies if you can take a tour of their shop floor to see the job setting and to get a visual of what your typical days work might be like.
Do you recommend a placement as an industrial electrician?
An Industrial Electrician placement is the perfect opportunity to learn more about how electricity works as well as some more advanced concepts used to create, build, and bring power to a robot. This position is the perfect position to experience a bunch of jobs at once. This is because as an Industrial Electrician you are helping do the basic general labour tasks as well as working along side the programmers, pipe fitters, and welders as well. An industrial electrician co-op placement can also open the doors to an apprenticeship with that company, which is something required to become an industrial electrician.
Why is Windsor-Essex a unique place to work in this field?
Our region has many tool and die, automotive, and aerospace companies. Windsor has been called the “International Hub for Automation and Innovation”. Companies in Windsor Essex are using emerging technologies to move our region into the leading digital age across the world. We also have the advantage of being a border city, having access to jobs in both Canada and the USA.
Do you see this job/field growing in the next few years?
Yes I definitely see this trade growing in the next few years. We live in a technology advanced world where everything runs on electricity. From wireless internet connection and a computer- to lights and ventilation systems, all the way to the robots that make the cars, electricity is used. Wherever electricity is used, an electrician is required. In a technology dependent economy, electricians will always be needed.
You can learn even more about Electricians through our detailed Career Profiles.
Are you a female working in the trades or hoping to? Looking for some advice from Women in the trade, or looking to mentor young girls? Join our Facebook Group: Windsor-Essex Women in Skilled Trades to get tips for the trades, advice, and answers to all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask!
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