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Red Seal Machinist Rebecca Chenier: trades transformed my life

Rebecca Chenier holding a drill outside of her machine at Centreline

Rebecca Chenier wanted a new start and she found a program that transformed her life. As a single mom with 3 children, finding a financially stable job wasn’t easy. Rebecca came across a flyer for a Millwright pre-apprenticeship training program offered by Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor.

If it hadn’t been directed at women, Rebecca says it would have been easy to dismiss or overlook the program. However, it piqued her curiosity because she has always enjoyed working with her hands, so she signed up.

Machinist Rebecca Chenier on the shop floor at Centreline

From there it was coursework, shopfloor experience, a job fair, an apprenticeship, and school. After 3 years, she wrote her government exam and now she’s a Red Seal machinist.

With her certification complete she had no debt, had made money and was able to buy a house and a vehicle.

“It gave me financial independence…It was empowering and freeing. I have no words to express how incredible that feels.”

What is the benefit of a Red Seal?

According to Red-Seal.ca, “The Red Seal, when affixed to a provincial or territorial trade certificate, indicates that a tradesperson has demonstrated the knowledge required for the national standard in that trade. The Red Seal endorsement promotes excellence to employers, instills pride in skilled workers, and facilitates labour mobility.”

You (or your employer) may be satisfied when you complete your apprenticeship hours and schooling, but Rebecca encourages everyone to push further and go for opportunities: “Let yourself fall into positions that might lead to other positions.”

She pursued her Red Seal certification for this reason. You might not think about doing your certification but it does open up doors.

“It’s more than just about money. It can lead to opportunities…giving you an edge and mobility to work across Canada. It may even benefit you in other ways you wouldn’t expect.”

After 5 years as a machinist with Centreline, Rebecca recently applied for (and got) a design position within the company.

“The design job is exciting and I qualified because of my Red Seal certification.” Rebecca said that the natural next step was designing the electrode adapters that she had been machining, but she went in a different direction…she’ll be designing the robotic assembly lines (or components of them) that Centerline makes.

“I’m excited about it. I killed the interview. Obviously, they believe in me.”

What does a Red Seal allow a journeyperson to do?

Rebecca has also started as a Teaching Assistant within the apprenticeship program at St. Clair College; that position too required a Red Seal.

“It’s been a really weird year with COVID-19 protocols, but I think it’s really cool for the students to see women in these positions.” She adds that having women be a part of the process that shapes future machinists is an excellent way to normalize women in the industry.

Red Seal Exam Requirements

The Red Seal exam requires preparation. Rebecca spent a lot of time researching different ways to prepare; she also took a prep course and studied her notes, giving herself a few months to get ready for the exam.

“It’s important to write it right away. Tackle the Beast! Don’t go in with expectations just go in and do it and if you fail, just move on and try again.”

Machinist Rebecca Chenier wearing a black shirt that reads, "Empowered Women Empower Women"

Advice for young people

Rebecca has great advice for students starting with not forcing themselves into a box. “Keep your career goals fluid. Look for open doors and opportunities. You don’t have to have a plan. Just see what opportunities arise and if they capture your interest, pursue them!”

She recommends talking to people about your future, applying for new things, upskilling, and continuously advocating for yourself.

“I think the biggest thing I learned is to self-advocate. You may get told no but you definitely won’t get any new jobs or promotions if you don’t apply for them.”

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