If you passed 23-year-old Simone Hewitt on the street, you would never guess she makes her living as a steamfitter. Simone has spent the past five years apprenticing in the trades and is a great example of how a career in the trades can be for anyone. There are increasing opportunities for women to have rewarding jobs in the trades. The only thing holding them back are outdated impressions that they’re men’s jobs — when the beauty of a career in the trades is that anyone can do it.

“In high school, I started a law program, but quickly realized I didn’t want an office job,” says Hewitt. “I was attracted to the trades because I enjoy building things. It’s satisfying to see something like a building that you helped construct.  And there were a variety of jobs available too.”  

Growing up, Hewitt’s exposure to the trades was limited.  Apart from her stepfather, who was an electrician, she didn’t know many others — especially women — doing this kind of work. It didn’t deter Hewitt. When she finished high school, she was encouraged to become a steamfitter.

Many career options and benefits

“I had no idea what a steamfitter was at the time,” admits Hewitt. “Basically it’s like being a plumber, where you’re responsible for boiler rooms that heat and cool buildings. I started as a pre-apprentice and went to school for six months. The great thing is you get paid to learn and graduate without debt.” No longer an apprentice, Hewitt recently passed her exam and received an Ontario College of Trades’ Certificate of Qualification with Red Seal Endorsement. 

Hewitt’s mom, who she credits with making sure she was always going in the right direction, was very supportive of this career choice. “She was happy she wouldn’t have to pay for university,” Hewitt jokes. “And being a single mother to my young son motivated me, because I wanted to have a good career that would allow me to stand on my own feet, live independently, and provide for him.”

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the trades. According to the provincial regulatory body for the trades, Ontario College of Trades, there are almost 5,000 steamfitter journeypeople, yet just 31 are female. And of the 780 apprentices only 21 are women.

Hewitt encourages girls, women, and parents to explore trade careers as a viable and beneficial option. “There is nothing limiting women from entering the trades. Women should see it as an option for themselves,” she says. “You can make a good living, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Parents should encourage their daughters to consider the trades.”