“I love my job and I feel grateful that I’m doing it. If I can inspire other women to take this path, it would make me really happy!”

Tateanna VanderWal is a passionate, hard-working, dedicated woman who understands the meaning of true grit. Her journey began as a painter. She rocked her baggy, paint-covered overalls and paint-slathered hands yet never felt like it was the right fit for her. She later decided to try a new path as a dish-washer at a local pub in Surrey, B.C. After some time slogging away in the dish-pit, trading the paint on her clothes for mustard and ketchup in her hair, she moved her way up to line-cook, then server. Seven years passed, working late nights, weekends and continuously scheduled on holidays; for Tateanna, change was in the air.

“I was looking for a job that would challenge me both mentally and physically…I want my mind to be stimulated, but I also don’t want to be sitting in a chair all day. I want to be moving”.

In search of a new direction, Tateanna kept her ears peeled and eyes open. Two of Tateanna’s good friends were part of the electrical apprenticeship union. Her best friend played on the union softball team. Lucky for Tateanna, the softball team was looking for a female ringer to fill their available position. “I got to play with a whole bunch of people from the union and it was a LOT of fun.” Surrounded by electrical apprentices, Tateanna became more aware of the many opportunities that surrounded her. “From talking with my friends in the union, I know that there is a lot of job security… the benefits are excellent, and the wages are much higher. It’s also a great opportunity for women right now. There is so much funding available!”. Absorbing this information, Tateanna looked forward to a job that would not require working late nights, weekends, or holidays. She was optimistic that the electrical trade was the perfect fit.

“I wake up every day and don’t hate going to work!”

Tateanna is now a proud, passionate, and dedicated 3rd-year apprentice at the Electrical Joint Training Committee (EJTC). “Right now, I am working in a huge commercial building that’s going to be thirty floors. Every day I go into a corner of the building, and I pre-build panels; every floor has 17 panels. I get to go to the workshop, build panels and listen to music. I love it!”. Tateanna has also built many positive and rewarding relationships within her work crew; “I work with a great crew that is very supportive. I’ve been very lucky with the people that I work under. All of my foreman are very competent and smart and good at what they do. If I ever have a question, they always have an answer and are always eager and able to teach me.”

“The grass is not always greener on the other side”

Being a woman with true grit, Tateanna understands that not every workday is as blissful as the last. Not long ago, she was assigned a task at one of Vancouver’s largest sporting venues. “I had to go under the bottom seats in the lower bowl. I was crawling through popcorn, gummy bears, beer, everything! It was dark and smelled but, someone had to go down there and wire all the receptacles on the inside”. Being a firm believer that the grass is not always greener on the other side, Tateanna embraces her challenges with a positive attitude while appreciating the days that aren’t so sticky.

“I have become very hands-on, which I am so proud of”

As the youngest apprentice on her job site, Tateanna feels empowered by her work, “I wish more women would give it a chance.” The EJTC electrical apprenticeship program has provided Tateanna with the skills she needs to thrive in the electrical industry. It has encouraged her to become the independent, capable, powerful woman she is today, and without a doubt, a woman of true grit.

Written by: Savannah Davis, ClearWater Communications Co.