After moving from South Sudan when she was 5 years old, Elizabeth Moses knew she wanted to make a change in her community and be a mentor for other young girls. Her participation in community events, including Build a Dream, has given her the opportunity to share her story and talk to young girls about how she got started as a general machinist apprentice. Since completing a pre-apprenticeship program, Elizabeth has been working at Windsor Mold Group as a 2nd year apprentice.
We chatted with Elizabeth about her trade and her plans to keep encouraging women to join the trades in Windsor-Essex.
How did you get interested in the skilled trades?
I started in high school. I took a woodshop class and my teacher, Mr. Costello, invited me to join robotics. At the time I didn’t know how to build anything. I started building robots in high school and in grade 12 I realized I liked machining and making parts. A year ago I saw an opportunity at St. Clair College for a pre-apprenticeship program that was for precision metal and I applied and got in.
I went to school for 4 months. The program is divided into 4 months of schooling there and 420 hours of on the job training. I started working for Windsor Mold Group to get my hours in. I am a second year apprentice; the pre-apprenticeship gave me my first year in school so I’m starting my second year of work here.
What is it like working in a male-dominated trade?
I was in grade 10 when I took the woodshop class and there were only two other girls in the class. At first I didn’t even choose the woodshop class, I was put into it. I saw my friends in cooking classes and I
wanted to do that because that’s where my friends were. And in the woodshop class I felt kind of uncomfortable because there was just so many guys and I wasn’t used to that. But you see now I work in a male dominated career so it kind of prepared me a bit. And working with the boys on the robotics team it did make me more comfortable working with more people and to be more productive. I like working with people, I like building things and working collaboratively.
How is doing an apprenticeship different than completing a traditional post-secondary education?
You get to see how everything comes together. In the classroom you are reading about everything but it’s hard to visualize how it comes together and how things run. I liked the skilled trades because I receive training at work and in school. I get to bridge the concepts that I learned in school to understand better. I go to school to learn how a machine runs and then I go to work and run the machine. It helps me understand what I’m learning and apply it too. Its great to be able to do that. I go to school twice a week for night classes and then I work during the day. We do that for 8 months.
What does an average day look like for you?
I come in for 7 o’clock and get the machines running. Then I get a layout for the parts and I have the designs to follow. I’ll make different components and parts depending on what’s needed. Soon I’ll be
doing another rotation in a different department. I enjoy the rotation because it lets you expand your knowledge and the more skills you know the more helpful you are on the floor. You can help your coworkers out. You can take what you learn in one department and apply it when you go to the next one. You can try new things and see what you like.
How have mentors played a role in your career so far?
My woodshop teacher believed in all of us. He believed in the boys and the girls, it wasn’t that just boys could do it and the girls weren’t good enough. He showed me I can do anything I want to and I shouldn’t be scared just because I’m a woman. I can accomplish my goals.
He was the first person that changed my mind about the trades. I was more interested in art and architecture. He had so much knowledge about so many different things and I thought it was amazing. It pushed me to get into the trades. I did get discouraged along the way but I looked up to him and it inspired me to pursue my career. If you find something that you’re happy about then it’s worth pursuing.
I also have leaders at work, Mike and Jay, that have acted as mentors and helped me to become successful in my career so far.
How can more girls get involved in the trades?
There are different camps where girls can actually work on machines and do welding. It’s all about trying something and seeing what you like. They need to decide for themselves. It’s better to have the opportunity to try than no opportunity at all. They need the chance to work with their hands to see what they can do. If they give the trades a chance and see what the career is about they’re more willing to try again and talk about it with their friends.