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Christel’s journey to the skilled trades began in high school when she took an automotive class, “I just decided to jump into this and I ended up loving it.” Noticing that she excelled more with hands-on activities Christel committed to finding a career that best aligned with her skills.
In high school Christel was able to properly transition into an apprenticeship through the help of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). “I had a subconscious interest in cars, I liked knowing how things work and cars were a thing I really wanted to know like really, really bad.” Christel took automation classes that counted towards her school credit and allowed her to experience her prospective career firsthand. Another great resource Christel had was her teacher, “I had a really good, solid role model as a teacher.”
Christel’s apprenticeship process was a unique one offered by Fanshawe College. There, Christel studied for two semesters and did a paid co-op position working at an auto shop in the summer. After the summer Christel returned for another semester and was hired on at the shop permanently. After completing her program Christel challenged the Red seal exam and passed. “I did it a little differently because I understood the challenges I was likely going to face…If I got education under my bow then no one can tell me that I’m not educated.” Christel’s biggest challenge in her career came in the form of a lack of support. Oftentimes people tried to dissuade her from choosing the career and even ultimately writing her red seal exam.
However, Christel was determined to prove them wrong and offered advice for young students faced with the same predicament,
Imposter syndrome isn’t new to Christel, early on in her career she faced some personal doubts that were made worse by a difficult working environment, “I doubted if I was good enough seriously, there was a time where I was ready to walk away from everything.” However a pep talk from her foreman changed everything, he said, ‘’Look, you might not be as fast as them but you know what you can do. You can fix a car right, the first time and a lot of people can’t do that.” Those kind words were all Christel needed to continue on in her journey.
For Christel the best part about working in the trades is the variety in her daily tasks, “There’s always something new. Every day, I learn something new, I’m committed to continuous learning… Cars are changing every single day so I’ll never know everything that there needs to know, and I love that.”
She offers sound advice to companies looking to be more inclusive, it is not simply enough to say companies must also work hard to make those vows a reality. “It’s one thing to hire someone of colour or someone that’s a visible minority but it’s another thing to actually make them feel welcome.
To read an earlier interview with Christel where she discusses apprenticeship and mentors, click here.
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