“Like winning the lottery”

“Like winning the lottery”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Susanne Orychock (Communications and Marketing Manager, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency) | Published: July 6, 2022

From an early age, Chyenne McPherson knew that she wanted to be a skilled tradesperson. She grew up around skilled tradespeople and enjoyed math, problem-solving, and hands-on work. She originally thought she wanted to be a steamfitter/pipefitter, but after exploring a variety of skilled trades, she realized that her passion was in the industrial mechanic millwright trade.

It was after a 15-week trades exploration course through Women Unlimited when Chyenne realized that she wanted to become an industrial mechanic millwright. She took a one-year millwright course while bartending and graduated at the top of her class.

After finishing her course and applying to a variety of positions, she accepted a labouring job ‘out West.’ Having returned to bartending after a plant shut-down, Chyenne received the call she had been waiting for in September 2018: an offer to work at the Department of National Defense at the Halifax Dockyard in her home province of Nova Scotia. Chyenne says the job is similar to an automotive mechanic’s work, only “working on a ship and with bigger equipment.”

Chyenne became an apprentice a few weeks after working at the Halifax Dockyard, where she was able to learn more about the millwright trade from a variety of experienced journeypersons. “When you get to your job or work term, it’s more hands-on,” she says. “It’s where the practical learning comes from. You’re working under smart people who have been at this for a long time.”

Chyenne spends most days in the antenna shop, where she installs, removes, or repairs antennas and the radars that are on Navy ships. She also works on the chillers that cool the antennas and radars, making sure air dryers are clean.

As a Black female in the trades, Chyenne said that she feels good to know that more women of colour are being introduced into the trades. “Being a Black female in the trades down at the Dockyard — there weren’t many there when I started,” she says. “When I realized there weren’t many females either, it felt good as a Black female to have made it somewhere great.”

After almost four years at the Halifax Dockyard and now a newly certified Red Seal Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), Chyenne describes her job like “winning the lottery.” “I pay into a pension, I have great benefits, great vacation — stuff I didn’t have when I was bartending,” she says.

Chyenne is still learning, enjoying the challenges that come her way and happy that she decided to pursue a career as a skilled tradesperson. “Every time I go into work, I’m always there with a smile and I can’t say that about my past jobs,” she says. “The trades just made me an overall happier person.”

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