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An electrifying career
Electrical instructor conducts knowledge to college students

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, March 19, 2010

THEBACHA/FORT SMITH - Fifteen years ago, Amanda Young now an electrical instructor at Aurora College in Fort Smith was a single mother working a minimum-wage job in Ontario.

NNSL photo/graphic

Amanda Young is an electrical instructor at Aurora College's Thebacha Campus in Fort Smith. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

"We had no vehicle. We had nothing," she said. "I was tired of having nothing. I wanted my children to have more." So, she answered an ad for labourers to help build a jail.

"I just wanted to get out of the minimum wage rut," she said.

Recognizing her knack for figuring things out, the boss of the project put Young to work installing the jail's communications systems and door alarms.

"That was my introduction to electrical," she recalled.

That put her on the path to Aurora College's Thebacha Campus, where she is teaching apprentice electricians.

She arrived in Fort Smith in October and will work there until June, and hopes to return to the college in the fall.

Young said she found out about the position on the Internet and applied, even though she knew nothing of Fort Smith.

"I love adventure and I love teaching," she said, adding she has travelled and worked in the U.S. and Canada, including in the Yukon.

In the 15 years since she helped build the jail, Young has continued to work in the trades. She became a certified electrical journeyperson about eight years ago.

She said she has had a wonderful variety of jobs, including working on the oilsands project in Alberta.

"I've been teaching on and off for five years," she said, mostly at Georgian College in Ontario.

As a female electrician, Young is part of a minority in the trade.

"It's still very male- dominant," she said. "I'm used to it by now."

Young said it is normal for her to get stared at on job sites.

Some male electricians see a woman as invading their world, she said.

"It upsets the guys," she said, saying they don't know how to act and whether they should swear and spit.

At Aurora College, Young said she has found no male/female tension among trades instructors and finds it a great place to work.

And, she has found gender not to be an issue among students, saying there has been one woman among the 15 students she has instructed at the college.

Young would encourage women to consider the trades.

"I think society doesn't encourage it was much as I want to see it," she said.

She believes Grade 5 would be the appropriate time to inform all children about opportunities in the trades. "They're not so gender-biased at that age."

Young said she would someday like to go into the schools to talk to children.

When children see her standing at about five feet tall, she said they realize you don't have to be a burly man to work in the trades.

Young said she teaches a full, demanding course, which includes everything from wiring lights, to hooking up electrical motors, to learning about electrical codes.

"We do a lot of hands-on work," she said, adding the program is also very math-oriented.

"Being an electrician is very hard work," she said, describing the job as being something like a house surgeon. "You need to learn to be a problem-solver in this trade."

Before entering the trades, Young was a florist.

"I still am in the summer," she said. Each year she returns to her home in Port McNicol, Ont., to work as a florist to express the creative side of her personality.

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