Founder, Blue Collar Boutique
Mediaplanet sat down with Kat Hassard who shares her insight on representation, education, and careers in the trades.
What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in the trades?
I started as an Engineering Technologies student in Kamloops but took a summer job doing irrigation and landscaping and loved it. I chose to switch into a trade and chose plumbing because water made sense to me. I had always wanted to be an architect, but I really found a sincere pleasure in working with my hands and seeing a finished product that was the result of my efforts.
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to face as a woman in trades, and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, getting a job. I went through multiple employers over the years due to mass layoffs and multiple recessions. I job-hopped with a colleague through five different companies over three years. Finding work is hard enough for a woman, but that certainly didn’t make things any easier. In fact, I had one company that I called for an interview, and they didn’t seem to understand why I was calling. Following my interview, I followed up and was asked to come in again, where I was point blank told they had never had a woman work for them before and they didn’t know how to make it work.
Given the lack of diversity in trades, what would you say needs to be done to advance the presence of minority groups like women?
Representation is so important. With the surge in everyone’s social media presence, I’m seeing more amazing women sharing their skills and talents with their trades careers, and it’s incredibly empowering. If those individuals could foster as much popularity as the tide-pods challenge, we wouldn’t be able to keep women out of the trades. But it’s not just inciting interest; there must be support at the other end. Employers and other tradespeople need to shift their mindsets in an often-uncomfortable way to include people that may not fit their traditional idea of who a tradesperson is. Without that change in mindset, nothing else will organically follow or be sustainable long term.
What advice do you want to share with Canadians from diverse backgrounds looking to pursue an education or career in the trades?
Do it! Even if you don’t follow through or change to a different career after finding out it’s not a good fit, you will always have an invaluable set of life skills that will allow you to be a better version of yourself and give back in a way you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. If you keep going and make that part of the fabric of your being, you will find close friends, an analytical approach to life, and a fulfilling career that can take you all over the world if you want.
I always like to think back to how much the service company I worked for charged for us to come in and the fact that I don’t need to pay for a plumber (or a carpenter or electrician, for that matter) because I learned how to do so much throughout my trade. Even as someone who has been out of the field for nearly 10 years, I still find so much joy and satisfaction in being able to teach or help someone with construction practice.
Is there anything else you want Canadians to know about the trades industry based on your personal experience working in the industry?
Change is coming, but change is slow. The world I worked in isn’t the same. The students I see coming through my classroom as a trades instructor aren’t the same. Instead, we see more inquiring minds, empathetic people, and growth mindsets as part of the construction ecosystem. It’s so exciting to see this change on the horizon, and while it’s not the same in every industry or company, it’s certainly coming!
My business, Blue Collar Boutique, strives to ensure everyone can find appropriate workwear for their careers. In order to work safely, we also need properly fitting workwear and PPE. I’ve partnered with some amazing manufacturers, from larger companies to smaller, Canadian-grown ones. They all feel the same way about workwear and our mission to ensure everyone has access to the right gear. “Workin’ Hard Never Looked So Good” is our slogan, and it speaks to the influx of amazing social media content that we do not see, which showcases the crazy, wild, and wonderful work that tradespeople do every day. While I’m just starting up, I’m super excited to continue to develop a growth plan with my partners and work toward a more inclusive future in trades.