Campus Life  

Plumbing program opens tap on new career

Okanagan College Media Release

MartiniWhen Cola Martini learned of the opportunity to immerse herself in a training program that would let her experience a host of different trades, it didn’t take her long to decide to jump in with both feet.

Four days later she was donning steel-toed boots, safety glasses, tool pouch and starting down a path that has led her to a good job with a respected local firm as an apprentice plumber.

“I was working in retail and knew that wasn’t for me,” says Martini. “I’m an outdoorsy person who likes to work with my hands, likes mental challenges and solving problems.”

In the end, she completed a 21-week plumbing pre-apprenticeship program offered by Okanagan College in Penticton. That turned Martini’s interest into a chance at employment as a tradesperson. (Applications are being accepted for another intake to that program in Penticton now – it starts Aug. 22.)

There was an important interim step along Martini’s path.

Martini enrolled in an Okanagan College program – the Gateway to the Trades for Women, part of the College’s Women Trades Training Initiative which is funded by the Industry Training Authority through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement.

The Gateway program introduces women to a host of different trades. It was there that Cola unexpectedly settled on plumbing as a trade to pursue.

“I was thinking carpentry, and in fact had signed up for a program in joinery, when we started the plumbing component. I liked the trade, liked the instructor, and changed to plumbing before the end of the week.”

“We hear that a lot,” says Nancy Darling, who co-ordinates the Women in Trades Training Initiative. “People come to the Gateway program with preconceived notions about what a particular trade is like and when they get into it, they find out the reality is completely different. The exposure to the different trades gives the students a chance to see and think about what fits with their skill set.”

There are dozens of success stories from women who have come through the program, in a variety of trades, including electrician, carpentry, auto service technician and heavy duty mechanics.

A 21-week plumbing pre-apprenticeship certificate program in Penticton followed and now Martini is working Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., doing installations with Leask and Company in the Central Okanagan.

“It’s a great shift,” says Martini. “Every day is different. One day we may be doing waterlining and drainage in a house and then the next day we may be installing furnaces.”

“You’re always learning. That’s one of the great parts of the job.”

Martini is more than just a satisfied graduate with a job, though: she’s a vocal proponent of the Women in Trades Training Initiative. She serves as a mentor for the program, helping women like herself understand the opportunities and challenges that are at hand in pursuing a trades career.

“I’d definitely recommend it,” she says, although she cautions that there is a healthy, physical element to the occupation she has chosen. “I was pretty fit before, but I’m building new muscles every day.”

There is an opportunity to enroll in the plumbing pre-apprenticeship program in Penticton, which starts Aug. 22 in Penticton.

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