Q&A with Metal Fabricator Apprentice Monique Song

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Monique Song is a Metal Fabricator apprentice who discovered the trades through the Trades Discovery for Women program at BCIT.

monique songHow did you get into your skilled trade?

I was working in the office before joining the trade. No one in my family or close circle was a tradie. So when I wanted to make the shift, I was really stuck. A Google search led me to the Trades Discovery for Women at BCIT. I enrolled in this program and explored 14 different trades before deciding on metalwork - I wanted to be a build and maker instead of a fixer. 

What keeps you motivated?

Growing up in a high-expectation Asian family, I walked the path sketched by my parents - a university degree and a corporate job. However, after a series of extreme depressive episodes in the corporate world, I finally decided that this was not for me. I always loved doing things with my hands and being able to see the tangible things I've done right in front of my eyes. Choosing trades is one of the few decisions I made on my own terms, for my own future. This realization alone is enough to keep me motivated most of the time. 

A Red Seal certificate is like receiving a bachelor's degree after 4-5 years in university. Except, a trade certificate means more to me as a sign of my free will. It's a recognition of my learning and the ability to make and build things. I am building things throughout the apprenticeship!

On the harder days, the meaning of my work keeps me going. Trades is an essential building block of our lives. Knowing the exact purpose of the things I'm building and how they will go out to benefit society gives me purpose. A meaningful work makes me feel like I'm doing something greater than myself.

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

First of all, why not? If boys can do it, why can't we? My belief has always been: if it's humanly possible, you can do it too.

There's an empowering feeling that comes with choosing the path of your own. If a girl likes skilled trades, she's simply choosing a career for herself. Not what others tell her to do.

Secondly, women bring in different work ethics that benefit the workforce. Women are generally more detail-oriented and organized. These are valuable skills that contribute to many skilled trades.

Lastly, skilled trades teach you hard skills that are essential for living. No matter what trade you are in, you'll be exposed to using simple tools and the fundamental thinking of how things work, and how a machine operates. For example, I am not a plumber, but I started tackling plumbing issues at home after I joined the trade. Being a tradesperson gives you the perspective of a skilled person and the problem-solving skills that benefit your daily life outside of work. It gives you confidence from the independence you find through your journey in trades.

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

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Being humble has been my biggest blessing. Joining trades later in life, I know I lack years of trade knowledge compared to those who started early. So I became a sponge and asked anything I wasn't sure of or wanted a better/simpler method. Soon, you'll find you progress and learn a lot faster than others because you can utilize others' experience and make it your own. Don't let ego get in the way. If you don't know, ask. Now you know. Now you can do better.