From an early age, Chyenne McPherson knew that she wanted to be a skilled tradesperson. She grew up around skilled tradespeople, enjoyed math, problem-solving and hands-on work. Although she originally thought she wanted to be a steamfitter/pipefitter, after exploring a variety of skilled trades, she realized that her passion was in the industrial mechanic millwright trade.
It was after a 15-week trades exploration course through Women Unlimited when Chyenne realized that she wanted to become an industrial mechanic millwright. She took a 1-year millwright course while bartending, graduated at the top of her class and after finishing her course, she applied for a variety of jobs and accepted a labouring job ‘out West’. In September 2018, after a plant shut-down and having returned to bartending, Chyenne received the call she had been waiting for – an offer to work at the Department of National Defense at the Halifax Dockyard in her home province of Nova Scotia – a job that she says is similar to an automotive mechanic’s work, only “working on a ship and with bigger equipment”.
Chyenne became an apprentice a few weeks after working at the Halifax Dockyard where she was able to learn more about the millwright trade from a variety of experienced journeypersons. “When you get to your job or work term, (it’s more) hands-on and where a lot more of the practical learning comes from… You’re working under a lot of very smart people who have been at this for a very long time,” she said. Chyenne spends most days in the antenna shop, installing, removing or repairing antennas and the radars that are on the Navy ships. She also works on the chillers that cool the antennas and radars, and making sure air dryers are clean.
As a Black female in the trades, Chyenne said that she feels good to know that more women of colour are being introduced into the trades. “Being a Black female in the trades down at the Dockyard, there weren’t many there when I started. And when I got down there and realized there weren’t many females either, it felt good as a Black female to have made it somewhere great.”
After almost four years at the Halifax Dockyard and now a Level 4 apprentice, Chyenne describes her job like ‘winning the lottery’. “I pay into a pension, I have great benefits, great vacation – stuff I didn’t have when I was bartending.” Chyenne is still learning, enjoying the challenges that come her way and happy that she decided to pursue a career as a skilled tradesperson. “Every time I go into work, I’m always there with a smile and I can’t say that about my past jobs…The trades just made me an overall happier person.”
Manager, Marketing and Communications
Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency