Opening doors to women in skilled trades
In a traditionally male-dominated field, women often feel they need to push themselves twice as hard to be recognized for the same work as their male counterparts. Luckily for Vicki Berg, she embodies the kind of strength and perseverance needed to stand on her own.
As a structural-turned-pipe welder at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard, Vicki found security in a job she loves that would support not only herself and her daughter but would also fuel her passion for mentoring other women entering the trade.
“Welding is like art,” Vicki says. “You take many small pieces of steel and make it into one. The results speak for themselves; I’ve had a hand in the complete construction of a ship from the very beginning.”
Vicki moved to Halifax with her daughter and worked hard to overcome hurdles as a single mother with a limited support network — but that’s where the challenges end. Her hard work and dedication to perfecting her trade was evident to her peers and supervisors. “I’ve gained a lot of respect through my work so, any barriers I might have faced have fallen by the wayside,” said Vicki.
I am proud to have played a role in this program to set an example for my daughter and for other women that they can pursue a career doing something they love.
The pride Vicki takes in her welding is matched by the pride she takes in her work mentoring other young women pursuing work in skilled trades. “When I was starting at Halifax Shipyard, there were probably about 15 women working, and in the last seven years that number has risen to 80!”
Irving Shipbuilding is supportive of Vicki, and all of its welders. The east coast shipyard runs a successful welding and metal fabrication program, Irving Shipbuilding—Women Unlimited at the Nova Scotia Community College, which has offered incredible opportunities to women looking to enter the welding trade. Vicki has been actively involved in the program since its inception, assisting in the recruitment of candidates and regularly engaging with the participants throughout their training and transition to the workforce.
“I’ve had the honour to work with Irving Shipbuilding and the Nova Scotia Community College to interview 20 women from all over the country for a spot in the 2-year program — and they’re now working at the Halifax Shipyard. I am proud to have played a role in this program to set an example for my daughter and for other women that they can pursue a career doing something they love.”
There’s a strong system of support; during their 2-year training program, Vicki makes a point to visit the women and offer encouragement, guidance, and answer any questions they might have. Vicki hopes her experience and support will set an example and inspire the women she mentors to pay it forward to others joining the field.