Q&A with Commercial Transport Mechanic Chelsea French
Meet Chelsea French, a Commercial Transport Mechanic from Vancouver, BC. Chelsea takes pride in knowing that the work she does plays a key role in keeping drivers safe on the road. Chelsea is an advocate and a mentor. When she started in the trades, she didn’t see very many other female tradespeople. But with the evolution of social media and programs focused on women in trades, Chelsea is now involved with several advocacy and mentorship programs.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career as a Commercial Transport Mechanic?
I had no idea that a career as a Commercial Transport Mechanic even existed until I found myself at a recruitment event for women in trades. After learning about the opportunities available in commercial truck shops, and a pilot program awarding job offers if you complete four levels of schooling and achieve above 70 per cent, I decided to go for it!
Q: Please describe what you enjoy most about your trade.
I love the fact that there is always something new to learn and I am constantly challenged to keep up with technology as it continues to evolve. I take great pride in knowing that the work I do matters by keeping drivers safe and knowing there is one more safe truck on our highways.
Q: How have you seen the trades change since you started?
I have witnessed many changes since I started in the trades. When I first began my career, I didn’t know many other women working in trades, and I primarily worked alongside older men. As my career shifted, so did the visibility of women in trades and through BC Tradeswomen Society, I was connected to a network of other women thriving in their skilled trades careers. Through this network, I got involved with Build TogetHer BC, the women’s caucus of BC Building Trades.
Since the BC Centre for Women in the Trades (BCCWITT) was founded, programs have been created to teach employers about how to support their female employees in the workplace.
Looking ahead, the Community Benefits Agreement will prioritize hiring females, apprentices and Indigenous peoples – another shift towards greater visibility of women in the skilled trades.
Q: What piece of advice would you offer a woman looking to get started in the trades?
The advice I have to offer a woman considering a career in trades would be to refuse to let anyone—even yourself—hold you back from doing a job that you love. You may experience obstacles, but there is a network of mentors and allies who will guide you through challenges and cheer you on along the way. At the end of the day, I feel proud of everything I’ve accomplished—sometimes the greatest challenges are the greatest successes.
Q: What do you love doing in your spare time?
I love to spend my spare time with family—camping, spending time on the lake, and on sunny days, I like to ride my motorcycle.
I also enjoy mentoring and spending time with people who are interested in pursuing a career in trades. I speak at schools to share my experience and promote opportunities for women in trades.
Q: What do you feel most proud of?
I am proud of a lot of things, like moving away to go to school for a year and completing my program.
I am most proud of being a role model and a hero to my little girls. They are proud of the work I do, and nothing means more than that.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
In 10 years-time, I will still be working with tools, but I would also love to continue mentoring and advocating for women in trades. Over the last year I have learned so many interesting things about our labour movement and I hope to continue learning as much as possible to support my fellow workers and all of those coming up behind me.
Do you know an apprentice or employer champion?
The Champions of Apprenticeship are recognized for their outstanding achievements in BC apprenticeship system. These Champions are celebrated for their hard work in creating certified tradesworkers, supporting their industry and promoting apprenticeship. Do you know an outstanding employer sponsor or apprentice? Send us an email and nominate them to become a Champion of Apprenticeship!