International Women's Day 2024

Q&A with Painter & Decorator Jenny Coleman

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Jenny Coleman is a Red Seal certified Painter and Decorator, with 14 years of experience in the trade. Jenny is now an instructor at the Finishing Trades Institute in Surrey, BC.

JennyHow did you get into your skilled trade?

My dad always enthusiastically pushed trades as a career route for myself and my siblings. Especially for me. He knew I was a hands on type of worker and didn’t really want to have my nose in a book. I like to work hard and get dirty. He encouraged me to start my apprenticeship with District Council 38 union in 2008 after working with Student Works Painting for a summer. I haven’t looked back since. 

What keeps you motivated?

I completed my apprenticeship and obtained my Red Seal certificate in 2014. I felt very accomplished and proud of myself after passing the interprovincial exam. Having my Red Seal has been nothing but beneficial for me in my career thus far. I never thought that I would end up where I am today in the trade as I just became one of the new instructors at the Finishing Trades Institute and now teaching the Red Seal program for Painters & Decorators. It has been an adjustment getting off of the tools and into the classroom but I am excited about the future. 

I stay motivated by having the want/need to prove myself and show my coworkers that I am skilled in our trade and have every right to be there working alongside them. I have been very lucky to have worked with some amazing men who have made it known that they are happy to work alongside me as well. I have also unfortunately encountered some men who did not believe that I belonged there. 

I’ll never forget one of my first jobs in the industrial field of the painting trade. My foreman called the union 2 days after I started saying “she’s out working 4 of my guys, start paying her journeypersons rate” as I had been told I need to prove myself before I get the rate that a Red Seal certified tradesperson is supposed to receive. 

Needless to say, that lit a fire under me and I made sure to show that I deserved to be there and get paid the appropriate rate just as much as the next guy. 

Why is it important to you for women to participate in the skilled trades?

I think it’s very important for women to participate in skilled trades. We need more women out there representing and showing that we absolutely can work just as hard and do quality work just as good as the next guy. If not, better even ;). I find that women in general tend to have a little bit more of an “eye for detail”. I’ve worked alongside many talented and skilled women in the trades and it’s exciting to see more and more every year. 

What advice or message do you have for girls and women interested in pursuing a career in the trades?

If you enjoy working with your hands and seeing your hard work transform right infront of your eyes, I promise you that trades are for you. Don't let anyone tell you that you can’t work in trades because of your gender, size or anything else for that matter. If it’s something that intrigues you and something you are passionate about, go after it! It can be very rewarding and I’ve always been proud to say what I do for a living :)