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Breaking down barriers: Falmouth electrician lauded for fostering inclusive apprenticeship opportunity

Electrician Doug Burgess was named an Apprenticeship Employer Champion June 7. Pictured presenting the award is Marjorie Davison, the CEO of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. Also pictured is Burgess' apprentice, Marley Blanchard, and Brenda Daniels, the industry training consultant with the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency.
Electrician Doug Burgess was named an Apprenticeship Employer Champion June 7. Pictured presenting the award is Marjorie Davison, the CEO of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. Also pictured is Burgess' apprentice, Marley Blanchard, and Brenda Daniels, the industry training consultant with the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency.

FALMOUTH, N.S. — A desk job isn't for everybody. And a career sitting behind a computer screen entering data definitely wasn't something an outdoorsy woman like Marley Blanchard could see herself doing for the long haul.

Soon after starting a business degree at the Nova Scotia Community College, Blanchard, of Ellershouse, realized she wanted something else – something that would involve hard work and being out in the community.

“I always enjoyed working with my hands,” said Blanchard, who honed in on the construction electrical field right away.

“There's so many different opportunities to the trade and so many places to go with it, whether the style of the electrical work that you do or whether it's (being) an estimator working with Nova Scotia Power,” said Blanchard.

After finishing her first year of community college at Kingstec, she met electrician Doug Burgess who agreed to host her as an apprentice.

Blanchard, who is working in a predominantly male field, said although there's still some discord attached to women entering the trades, it's not evident while training under Burgess.

“It's, at times I guess, intimidating but not so much for me where it's just me and Doug. He's a very good employer,” said Blanchard. “He doesn't underestimate me and what I can do when it comes to physical strength and helping him pull wire and pull service feeds and such.”

Burgess was honoured June 7 with an award from the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency.

“Many champion employers are champions because they invest in apprenticeship, they hire diverse apprentices, which in our system, we don't have the number of female apprentices that we would like to have,” said Marjorie Davison, the CEO of the agency.

“That's one of our key interests is growing the number of women who are entering the trades, as well as other diverse equity groups,” she said. “Also, it's the quality of the training that the employer provides.”

Davison said Burgess' commitment to training Blanchard to the highest standards made him stand out as a good corporate citizen. As such, he was named an Apprenticeship Employer Champion.

“It's also giving kudos to Doug for the approach that he's taken as the employer, providing that hands on training and looking to have that standard of training in the industry and not cut corners. That's really important for us,” said Davison.

This is the second year that the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency has doled out the awards.

“We're trying to showcase those employers that are out there doing it right because we want that to have a positive influence on other employers,” she said.

As for Burgess, he was humbled to be recognized.

“I've always tried to be a good employer. That's what I want. I want anybody that works for me to be happy to be here,” said Burgess.

The Falmouth-based electrician has been working in the industry for more than a decade. He said he sees the benefits of having Blanchard apprentice with him.

“She's teaching me a lot too. One of my biggest hang ups is trying to express myself to my customers. I talk a different language than they do,” said Burgess, adding Blanchard understands what he's proposing at a job site and can break it down into language the client can understand.

“She would be a good employee for anybody. All I can do is strengthen her electrical knowledge,” said Burgess, noting she's a hard worker.

As for Blanchard, she doesn't want to receive special treatment because of her gender.

“I don't want to be hired just because I am a female. I want to be hired because they know I can work,” said Blanchard.

“Doug told me personally that he hired me because he knew I did drywall work. He said if I could do drywall work, then I could do anything.”

Blanchard has finished her second year of the four-year program with the goal of becoming Red Seal certified.

Two other employers in the Valley region were recognized by the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency: CKF, based in Hantsport, and Tibbetts Electrical, based in Kentville.

To learn more about the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and their Apprenticeship Employer Champion award, visit: https://nsapprenticeship.ca.

 

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