Meet Julia Boyle, Ironworker Apprentice at Halifax Shipyard

Julia Boyle never considered pursuing a skilled trade when growing up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

After graduating high school, she went directly to university. But after two years, feeling uninspired and unable to picture her future in her degree program, Julia knew it was time to make a change.

“My mom mentioned Women Unlimited, and when I looked into the program I was interested because it gave me the opportunity to try different trades to see what they were all about. This program was fantastic because not only did I get to learn about different trades, it also taught me a lot about myself and where I wanted to be in the future,” Julia says.

Women Unlimited is a not-for-profit women’s organization in Nova Scotia that promotes the full participation of women in trades and technology. Through a collaborative partnership, Irving Shipbuilding, Women Unlimited and Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) are working to address the gender gap in shipbuilding.

After learning about welding and metal fabrication as career paths, Julia settled on metal fabrication, completing the two-year program at NSCC. After graduating, she was hired at Halifax Shipyard.

Now, Julia is the youngest of 220 skilled trade apprentices working at Irving Shipbuilding, the largest employer of apprentices in Nova Scotia. Irving Shipbuilding works closely with all apprentices and apprenticeship partners, including NSCC, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, and Unifor Local 1, assisting with education and ensuring continuous improvement of learning and curriculum.

Julia has appreciated the commitment to her development.

“Irving was with me and supported me through the two years of schooling at NSCC and they continue to support me now as I work towards getting my Red Seal. There are so many opportunities for growth within J.D. Irving and I am proud to say I work here,” she says.

Julia loves the fact that her work is hands-on and requires thinking and problem solving. As an ironworker apprentice, she fits up structural steel as a member of the 2000+ team building and maintaining ships for Canada.

“My advice to young people considering the trades is to go for it. Don't feel pressured to go to University and get a degree like I did. Especially for young woman like myself who’ve been told trades are just for men – they aren’t.”

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