Aboriginal People in the Trades: Jenna Billings

Alex Dedam (President of JEDI) and Jenna Billings

Alex Dedam (President of JEDI) and Jenna Billings

Training in an occupation that is predominately occupied by men doesn’t seem like an easy task for some women, but that is just what Jenna Billings has done. A member from the Tobique First Nation, she is one of 16 graduates from the Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) training course this past July and she really enjoys what it takes to work in a field that is not typical for the average stay at home mom.

“Some things I may have found scary at first,” said Jenna, “but the instructors were there to teach me and I really got it. It isn’t scary anymore.”

Jenna initially enrolled in an Employment and Training program held in her community that allowed her to job shadow the Heavy Equipment Operator trade. This inspired her to continue with the HEO program piloted by JEDI in partnership with High Velocity Equipment Training. The 12 week course administered in Tobique, taught the students how to operate heavy machinery such as a bulldozer, excavator, backhoe, skid steer, and front end loader.

Jenna trained on multiple pieces of equipment but really enjoyed the Skid steer, a small framed loader equipped with lift arms that are used to attach labour-saving tools. After learning how to operate various machinery, she found this piece of equipment to be her favourite.

“It can do a lot of things,” said Jenna. “I just really enjoyed running it. It is so little, you can get into tight spaces.”

There is a high demand for Heavy Equipment Operators throughout Canada and her certification will allow her to search for jobs anywhere in the country. She has applied to several job openings located out West and hopes to someday re-locate and implement her new skills and prove she is tough enough to keep up with the best.

“I like the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day,” said Jenna. “You go in and build something and contribute, and then at the end of the day you can be proud of it.”

Jenna is also grateful for the support she received from her mother who helped her care for her daughter during her training. Her support system was a contributing factor to her overall success. She also continues to encourage others who are following in the same career path to persevere even though it can be challenging.

“Don’t give up,” said Jenna, “it gets tough and you think you won’t be able to do it but keep at it, you can get it.”

JEDI wishes Jenna the best of luck in her future endeavours and congratulates her for successfully completing the HEO course.