Gerda Schulz was born and raised in Venezuela, and in 2006 moved to Alberta with her husband and children looking for a better future. Even though she was trained in Venezuela as a mechanical engineer, the job hunt in Canada wasn’t easy as she had been out of the workforce for over 10 years. Gerda was eager to learn and gain valuable skills to apply to her career in Canada. In 2017, she enrolled in a Women Building Futures (WBF) six-week training program where she learned practical skills like welding, woodworking, how to use different equipment materials and tools as well as safety certification and training. The biggest takeaway for her, however, was the confidence she gained from the program.
“The Women Building Futures program not only taught me introductory skills training in construction but provided me the encouragement I needed to build my confidence as a woman in the construction industry,” says Gerda. “I learned so much. I left the program feeling more confident in myself and skills that I can offer in my career.”
After Gerda’s six-week program, she applied for a role as a pipefitter with BFI Constructors, one of Graham’s workforce partners. She was accepted due to her eagerness, training and the practical skills she acquired through the WBF program. She began as a pipefitter working at the Gilead Labs Expansion Project and found herself drawing on her training to weld and install mechanical piping systems. A month later, after expressing an interest in documentation and organization, Gerda began supporting the project’s document control group, where she was documenting and redlining the required materials to streamline the turnover process. This role required interpersonal and communication skills that she honed during her WBF training. After that, Gerda was asked to join Graham’s Industrial Division as a Project Coordinator working with the Quality team at the Burton Creek Project, using her technical and problem-solving skills to ensure operations met production standards. Gerda enjoyed working with the Quality team and near the end of the Burton Creek Project, she joined as the Quality Coordinator. Currently, Gerda is supporting the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tank project at the LNG Canada Project (LNGC) in Kitimat, BC. She started working on this project last fall doing quality inspection and testing. This has been her favourite role, but also the most challenging as she has had to learn to do civil inspections, when her background has been largely mechanical.
Graham has supported WBF through a multi-year partnership that encourages more women to join the trades. WBF helps prepare women for prosperous careers in construction trades. Their programming provides varied skills training, safety certification and much more. The program helps prepare many women like Gerda join or rejoin the workforce. They prepare women for careers while focusing on confidence building, best practices for careers in trades, financial literacy and health. The programs help introduce an underrepresented population to target industries and help address the looming workforce shortage that is expected in the coming years. These new careers then create economic security for women which changes their lives, their families and our communities. Over the past 20 years, WBF have maintained an average 90 per cent employment rate, while most WBF graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation.
With the support of valuable partners, like Graham, WBF connects women with life changing employment opportunities and transform women’s lives by removing barriers and supporting economic prosperity. Graham is committed to supporting women and furthering career opportunities of highly-qualified program graduates, like Gerda.