Julia Blair WITT program

Finding her fit with VIU’s Women in Trades Training Program

July 27, 2021
Author: Eric Zimmer

Meet Julia Blair

A decision made “on a whim” has turned into a new career path for Julia Blair.

“I had been struggling for a few years through my 20s to find something that felt like a good fit,” 30-year-old Julia says. 

That “good fit” turned out to be VIU’s Women In Trades Training (WITT) Trades Discovery Program: A 12-week, fully-funded, non-credit program designed to expose participants to a variety of trades and career options, with a focus on safety, industry training, and enhancing job readiness. The program offers sponsorship and supports for eligible and selected women in their pursuit of becoming a tradesperson.

And for Julia, finding the Trades Discovery Program “was like a lightbulb went on” in her head. “It was clear as day that I needed to be doing something with my hands that’s technical and hands-on, and it became so obvious that this was the type of work I needed to be doing to feel satisfied.”

Signing up for the course “just a couple of weeks” before it started, Julia says what excited her the most about the program at first was the carpentry component. 

In the end, she was particularly drawn to the electrical part of the program.

“I hadn’t really had any interest or expectations of electrical, but I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of it and found it pretty interesting,” Julia says. She also found the heavy equipment operator component of the program to be to her liking.

With the course running from January to March of this year, following COVID -19 protocols made for a different experience than in non-COVID times, but Julia says that overall, “it was the best it could be” given the circumstances.

And with an awareness that finding work during a global pandemic was a challenging prospect, Julia says it actually felt like a good time to be in school. “I figured I may as well be in school and further my education,” she says. 

Looking back on her time in the WITT program, Julia says it was a “gift” to experience.

“There are so few education opportunities in this world where you generally get a chance to really try something, and I think for me, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for something like this - save for the fact I was given this amazing opportunity - and it was paid for. It’s an opportunity that not a lot of women have had, and you just don’t really know until you try.”

In partnership with the Industry Training Authority, WITT aims to reduce barriers and increase access to trades where women are underrepresented.

Having completed the program, Julia is now enrolled in the electrical foundation program at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC, with some potential work prospects already on the horizon.

“I have a family friend who runs an electrical company here, so I do have an in,” she says. “It looks like I’m going to have some work in the field coming up in the fall, so that’s pretty exciting.” 

The next installment of the Women in Trades Discovery Program begins on August 17 at the Nanaimo campus, and applications are still currently being accepted.

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