Women IN power – Lora Cardinal
By Anthony Capkun
February 13, 2023 – Just about anyone reading this magazine already knows that the electrical trades offer rewarding careers. And, as we transition to a fully electrified society in the coming decades, we’re going to need a lot more electrical pros. What if we could double the size of that talent pool by attracting and retaining the other half of the population?
This is why Electrical Business Magazine—along with our partner, Electricity Human Resources Canada—highlights women in electrical: to show both employers and future female apprentices that anyone with the right attitude and a fundamental aptitude can succeed in the industry when given the chance—regardless of who they are.
THIS IS LORA CARDINAL’s STORY
If anything galvanized Lora Cardinal’s interest in pursuing the skilled trades, it was when her family moved to Fort McMurray, Alta., where—because of the oil industry—“any trade is very popular”.
While still in high school, she broached her Native Liaison, Irene Loutit, about the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), who excitedly encouraged her to go for it, “because I would be one of the first aboriginal students to start something like that”.
Lora’s mom agreed, suggesting she pursue Instrumentation as a first choice, then Electrical. “I started out doing my first year of Instrumentation in the RAP program, completing my hours in a Semester during Grades 11 and 12,” Lora recounts.
“After I graduated, I started in the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Program, and that’s where I switched over to Electrical.”
Why the switch? As it turns out, Lora is very practical, and there simply was not enough Instrumentation work to go around at the time. “So I began working for a small service company in Fort McMurray as a first-year electrical apprentice.”
Lora’s journey was not an easy one, and not necessarily just because she is female. “When I started out in the trade, I was shy and scared to speak up when needed to. I lacked confidence… but I also didn’t how to read a measuring tape, so I guess it was normal to feel that way,” she admits.
She realized she had to gain knowledge and work experience to prove her worth and find her voice. “Working in a man’s world was a little intimidating for a 19-year-old girl! I had to work alongside men and pull my own weight. But, as I progressed, I gained more confidence. Everything takes time.”
“There was a time in my career when I felt so small, so defeated and overwhelmed; I had to learn something complex but, with the way I was being taught, I just couldn’t grasp it,” Lora remembers.
“I disliked coming to work, but I was afraid to speak up because I did not want people to think I wasn’t smart enough.”
Things changed significantly after Lora got her ticket but, if she could do it all over again, she would have asked for different guidance because she learned differently.
To that she advises “Never stop asking until you get the answer you’re seeking, because there’s more than one way to learn.”
“I would have been a better apprentice,” Lora muses, adding that “All these trials and tribulations have built me up to be the electrical tradeswoman I am today. I am grateful for every lesson—good and bad—because they helped me grow!”
By now an electrical journeyman, Lora was recruited by Syncrude Canada (now Suncor) to join a team in Utilities called the “Steam Team”, which is where she met Rebecca Kragnes. “Rebecca was one of my first journeymen. She mentored me and taught me a lot in the beginning of my career.”
(Rebecca is the keynote speaker at our Women in Construction virtual event on March 8. – Ed.)
A lifelong learner, Lora also pursued a Power Systems Electrician ticket at NAIT. “I completed the schooling and became a journeyman PSE by 2014. I worked with Syncrude’s Power Distribution Team for a short while, before going back to being a maintenance electrician at Aurora.”
“I love how I have grown into the field electrician I am today,” Lora smiles. “I learned early on that, like many of us, I learn differently than others. I might not have understood how to do something right away, but I never said no to a job and always tried my best.”
There were times when Lora questioned her choice of vocation. “I wasn’t sure if this was the career for me, but I kept going and persevered. As time went on, I gained more experience and knowledge, and I grew to love my job because I became good at it.”
As a testament to her persistence, Lora now pulls prints, schematics, single-line drawings for her tasks, creates and edits procedures for the guys on the floor, coordinates shutdowns and turnarounds, and more. But she is quick to point out that there is no “I” in “Team”.
“It was my team that collaborated and worked with me to help us all shine,” she says. “I love the team I’m working with—my work family—who mentored me and helped me unlock my full potential,” Lora enthuses.
She feels that women can declare We’ve made it when “we complete our education in what we are pursuing and turn it into a career”.
“I know I’ve made it, and I am proof that it can be done. There will be hard days, but do it even if it’s hard,” Lora insists.
“I am proud of the work I have done across many different projects in my career, and I love this trade for all of the learning and knowledge it has given me.”
“Like my dad always told me, there is no such thing as ‘I can’t’. Never give up!”
This is an excerpt from “Meet these Women in Power” (Winter 2023 ed.) You’ll find all Back Issues of Electrical Business Magazine in our Digital Archive.
Taking on an apprentice may be simple, but it is by no means easy, so hire smarter with work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities, wage subsidies, and financial incentives for students and apprentices through Electricity Human Resources Canada. To learn more, VISIT EHRC.
Print this page