Star: Apprentice Mechanic
Here’s how she did it
Shistar Pollon’s path into the trades is defined by adversity. Shistar, better known as ‘Star’ by her friends and colleagues, is entering her third year as an apprentice heavy-duty equipment mechanic with Geotech Drilling LTD, a Prince George-based geotechnical and geothermal exploration company. She grew up on a farm just outside of 100 Mile House, and has since lived in Kelowna and settled in Prince George. “Growing up on a farm taught me a lot. The most transferable skill into my trades career is certainly hard work; it’s what sets people apart,” says Star.
At 15, Star became a mom – a humbling experience. Now 29, she looks back on her early entry into motherhood as a blessing in disguise. “It forced me to mature quickly, faster than my peers. I worked a lot of labour-related jobs during those times. From 16 to 25 I did masonry, dry walling, framing and poured concrete,” she recalls. “I always had a trades-related background, I just didn’t have any formal training. Now I’m well on my way to finishing my certification. The struggles I have gone through in the past are what make me strong today.”
At age 26, with nearly a decade of trades-related labour experience and no ITA-recognized certification, Star knew she needed a change. In 2009 she enrolled in the Women in Trades Training Program (WITT). “I’m a pretty resourceful person; I did a lot of searching about trades programs. WITT is a gateway program for women interested in the trades. It exposes you to all the major trades and teaches basic skills.”
BC is home to multiple public (colleges, universities and institutes) and private Recognized Training Providers that provide technical (or classroom) training for British Columbia’s apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. These institutions are helping women like Star get trained-up for jobs that require skilled labour.
Women in Trades Training Program
The Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative, funded through the Canada-BC Job Fund Agreement (CFJ), is part of ITA’s long-term strategy to match women’s skills to the needs of British Columbia’s workforce. The initiative provides training, financial assistance and support for eligible women who might be thinking about a career in the trades, who are unemployed and not eligible for Employment Insurance benefits and/or supports.
When asked about the WITT Program’s impact on her trades journey, Star replied, “This program is giving women an opportunity to explore a career path in trades. It’s really been instrumental in my growth. I think it’s fantastic.”
Now, Star is entering her third year of apprenticeship at Geotech Drilling. She fixes drill rigs, generators, commercial generators and vehicles – she and her team ensure Geotech Drilling is running efficiently. “It’s the team atmosphere that I love the most – working together to achieve a common goal is so satisfying,” says Star. “I’ve never been so excited about the future. Once I’ve graduated, I will be positioned to earn a solid wage and be able to provide for my daughter, who is 15 now.”
When asked about the future of BC women in trades, Star responded energetically: “Women are the future of the skilled workforce. The tables have turned; the stigma that hindered women in the trades a few decades ago is deteriorating. I feel like I’m part of the change that’s happening in the trades. The trades are for everyone and anyone – that’s the best part.”
How Star’s Story Connects with the BC Jobs Plan
- By the year 2020 BC will have over one million job openings with 43% of them requiring skilled training. BC’s Skills and Training Plan is addressing industry needs by better informing British Columbians about the services available to them.
- Star’s story of resilience overcoming adversity exemplifies the diverse individuals employed in BC’s skilled workforce.
- Part of the BC Jobs Plan is ensuring the skilled workforce of tomorrow has the resources in place to succeed. BC has invested $75M in training facilities and equipment to ensure students are given access to advanced technologies and equipment.