Debby Corriveau, welder-pipefitter, is confident in her choices
April 04, 2022
Debby Corriveau is making her way in a man's world. "I was ready for it, I have always been surrounded by guy friends, but that does not mean that I am a tomboy. I like to take care of myself and wear nice dresses to go out, but I am also not afraid of getting dirty on the job and stopping at the grocery store on my way home. In fact, it is fun being able to do both!"
The young 24-year-old has been passionate about high-pressure pipe welding since the end of high school. Her parents are proud of her choice and have supported her in her academic journey. "My sister has also embraced a non-traditional career; she is a construction equipment operator," says Debby. "We have a lot of character in my family, and we are hard workers!" The welder-pipefitter from Pintendre, Lévis, loves her job. "On mornings when I have to be up at 3 AM to go do a job in another region, I am happy to get up and get going, and I always get to work in a good mood."
Qualification Despite Difficulties
Although Debby does not relate to feminist discourse, by telling her story, she wants to let other women know that anything is possible, despite the difficulties she encountered. "School was hard for me. I have reading difficulties. I was in a special class known as pre-DVS." This special pathway gave Debby the opportunity to explore different training avenues and discover various trades in Secondary IV. "That's when I fell in love with welding." She did her research and decided to enroll at the Centre de formation professionnelle de Lévis in a training that was 1800 hours that she went on to perfect with a 600-hour AVS in High-Pressure Welding. "I studied in an individualized training format. I was the only girl in a group of 30 students. The atmosphere was very friendly. Young people today are more open than older generations. It took me longer because I had difficulties with the theorem; meanwhile, the boys were already in action in the workshop. When I was finally ready to start the practical part, the modules progressed naturally. I made up for lost time and even surpassed some of the boys. I was talented." Today, she has come to the conclusion that no matter the job, you have to make a place for yourself. "You have to be confident in yourself and your abilities, don't worry about what others are doing, but don't be afraid to ask for help."
The atmosphere was very friendly. Young people today are more open than older generations.
Debby's job is to fabricate and weld countertops, pipes, tanks, etc. She cuts parts according to drawings provided by companies, fits and welds them together. "I assemble parts made of iron, steel, stainless steel, etc., using different processes and tools, but it's basically fusing them with heat." When asked if it gets repetitive, she says, "Not at all! It's always different, depending on the client's needs. This job has a creative, artisanal aspect because we want it to be beautiful. There is also the satisfaction that comes with seeing things you have made with your own hands, and the desire to always do your best."
This male-dominated job - one that requires a lot of stamina, thoroughness and attention to detail - is becoming increasingly accessible to women, according to Debby. "You just have to be able to do the job. If you're good, efficient and reliable, it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman." However, welding is considered a difficult job because of the extreme heat conditions. "Yes, welding in a leather vest, gloves and a mask during a heatwave requires a good level of endurance," admits the young woman. "Personally, I did 12 years of gymnastics, I did kickboxing, so I am in excellent physical shape. And this is a job you can do for a long time."
This job has a creative, artisanal aspect because we want it to be beautiful. There is also the satisfaction that comes with seeing things you have made with your own hands, and the desire to always do your best.
Taking One's Place in a Man's World
Debby's Facebook page states, "Don't be a woman who needs a man. Be a woman a man needs." Since graduating in 2015, she has worked in various workshops and has been a team leader. She is currently the only female welder at Multi-Soudure R.D., a company carrying out different subcontracting mandates in the food industry and construction. Accessing the job market did not necessarily go as smoothly for Debby as it could have if she were a man. "One of the bosses I had was really reluctant to hire me because I was a woman. He admitted as much to me. At first, he would only give me tasks that posed no challenge at all, but things got better over time." Debby also recalls a client that showed prejudice towards her, whom she eventually won over with her professional skills. "One day, we were three people in the workshop, and a man driving a milk truck came in for a minor emergency repair. There was a leak in his tank that needed welding. When he saw that I was going to be the one to do the repair, he made all kinds of comments, saying over and over that he didn't have time to come back if the job was botched. He even demanded that I take a photo with my phone inside the tank to prove I had done the repair correctly. I ran into him later when I went to buy a coffee, at which point he thanked me."
Between Two Passions
In the next few years, Debby would like to improve her plumbing skills. "These assignments often require going out of town, and I have to be home every night to take care of my animals." Debby lives in the house next to her parents' in Pintendre, a situation that makes it easier to take care of her many animals: five horses, three calves, chickens and a dog. "It's a small farm."
Context Favouring Gender Diversity
According to an analytical study produced by Kristyn Frank and Marc Frenette for Statistics Canada, increasing women's participation in male-dominated trades has been identified as a means of improving the supply of skilled tradespersons in an aging Canadian workforce, a way to create a more diverse workforce, increase women's wages and fully utilize their skills. Currently, the percentage of women in the welding and high-pressure welding sector is only 2.14%. In many regions of Québec, the scarcity of qualified technical workers could allow women to enter workplaces usually reserved for men . "When you finish school, as a girl with no experience, you're not exactly the most sought-after candidate," says Debby. "But fortunately, there's a shortage!" Could this labour shortage be an opportunity for women to break through the glass ceiling of employment environments where they struggle to fit in, once and for all?
(…) Increasing women's participation in male-dominated trades has been identified as a means of improving the supply of skilled tradespersons in an aging Canadian workforce."
- Frank, K., & Frenette, M. (2019, March). How Do Women in Male-dominated Apprenticeships Fare in the Labour Market? (No. 420). Statistics Canada.