Women in Transportation: Amanda Carter
Centennial College’s School of Transportation connects students to essential careers in the car, truck, powersport and aviation industries. The world needs skilled tradespeople, and anyone that has the right drive can become one. This was the case with Amanda Carter, who sought to enter the industry from a young age. She’d get the chance to prove herself in the college’s Modified Apprenticeship Program for Truck and Coach, and would go on to coordinate apprenticeships for Toromont, helping to advance the role of women in trades.
A childhood dream
“When I was younger,” Amanda explains, “I used to work with my grandfather on the things we had at our cottage. We had powersports stuff: Our snowmobiles, our boats, even oil changes on the car.” For her, a career in transportation was a no-brainer, as it was something she’d been into since she was a child. “I liked figuring things out,” she says. “It was like a puzzle.”
Looking to get a career in it would prove to be a challenge for her, though. “I kind of had to figure out how I was going to do it the hard way,” she admits.
Amanda’s education began when she came to Centennial to take the Motorcycle and Powersports program, finding the school eager to work with women in trades. “At that time, they had a monthly lunch for girls in trades at Centennial,” she says, “so we could get together and talk about issues we were having, and good things that were happening.”
After completing the program, Amanda decided she wanted to pursue a slightly different trade, working at a truck shop in Barrie to figure her career out. “They hired me on, and I did it for the summer and really liked it,” she explains. “That’s when I looked at Centennial and what programs they offered in Truck and Coach.”
Part of the reason for continuing her education was to help her cross the gender gap. “I started applying to places,” she says, “but being female, I’d get asked why I wanted to do this, and wouldn’t get a chance to even talk to them. So I thought if I went to school and got all of my levels done, then I’d have a bit of an upper hand. Plus there were two co-ops in the course, so it would give me a chance to prove myself.”
Truck and Coach
Amanda would go on to take the Truck and Coach Modified Apprenticeship, providing her with a combination of theory and lab practice, combined with co-op placements. “We’d go over things in class,” Amanda explains, “and then we’d go over to the lab and look at what we’d just learned in class.”
Eventually, the program would take her out to the real world with a pair of co-op placements. “My first co op I did at the Mack Volvo Mid-Ontario Truck Centre in Barrie,” she says. “It was the winter, it was covered in mud from dripping trucks, but it was good, I loved it.”
At the time, she felt challenged to prove herself as a woman in the industry, but rose to that challenge. “It’s harder when you’re a female,” she admits. “You’re beginning to learn, and there’s already people watching you and judging you, but you have that much more pressure. By the first week, I think they realized that I didn’t mind getting dirty, and this was what I wanted to do. There’s a lot of proving yourself, but I got to work on garbage trucks, a cement mixer and suspension.”
Her goal from the start of the program, however, was to work at Toromont, a supplier of heavy machinery. “I wanted to get in with a good company where I knew I could go in and not be judged because I’m a female,” she says. “When my second placement came up, I was really persistent in contacting them.”
Once again, it would provide her with hands-on experience. “They’re more of an engine shop, so they let me tear apart a whole engine,” she says. “Engines are my favourite, so it was really good to me. It was the best work environment I’ve been in.”
“I was applying everywhere,” Amanda says of her job search after graduation. “Toromont had given me a great review, but I hadn’t heard anything about them looking for apprentices.” However, they’d have something better in store for her, contacting her to become an Apprentice Coordinator.
“There’s a lot of good things about apprenticeship that I picked up on going through it,” she says, and she intends to pass them on to new apprentices. “I can relate with apprentices when I talk to them, and I feel like I can really help them. I see the apprenticeship from a different point of view, because I’ve gone through it.”
Spreading the message
Amanda intends to use her position to spread the word about women in the trades. “In September I’m going out to colleges, high schools and trade shows, and speak about the program. I’m looking forward to getting more females interested in trades. I’m really excited to explain it to people, especially young adults, because I wish I had a bit more guidance in high school.”
To other women looking to enter the trades, she says that confidence is key. “No matter what anyone says to you, keep your head up,” she says. “Remember you can do it. I can, I will, and I shall. That’s what someone at the truck shop said to me. Repeat after me, I can, I will and I shall. That’s what I say to myself now.”
By Anthony Geremia