Blazing her trail
Being first can be tough, but it’s rewarding
Nicole Preston didn’t set out to be a trailblazer; however, as the first female graduate of CNA’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician program she says it feels good to be a pioneer.
“I enjoy getting up in the morning and coming to work, I really do,” she says. “The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner.”
Nicole came to her trade after spending more than a decade working in Alberta. After graduating high school on Fogo Island she followed a lot of other Newfoundlanders who went west to find work. After getting laid off from her job as an order picker for a construction supply company, she moved back home and took a job in the meat department of a Gander grocery store. But she knew she wanted something more.
“A friend of mine is in refrigeration as well and we got to talking,” she says. “I’ve always liked working with hands-on things and he told me it was great course to get into.”
After doing some research on the trade, she decided to enroll at the Ridge Road campus. Nicole admits that she had to make a big adjustment when she started school again at age 35.
“I pretty much had to learn how to study all over again,” she says.
“It was tough. Some things I’d never seen before, but I had great instructors who were determined to get me through.”
Randy Ledrew was one of those instructors. He says Nicole worked hard to complete the program, and he could tell she was determined to graduate.
“She worked hard and it was uphill but she stuck with it and she got there,” he says. “We’re delighted that Nicole got through.”
Randy says Nicole proved herself by showing that she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, and he was happy to recommend her to an employer as she was getting near the end of her program.
“We do that for all our students, but we recommended Nicole to Jason Wilkinson at Keep Kool Refrigeration because he’s a younger employer who’s more progressive and he’s also a graduate of the program,” he explains.
Nicole says she was thrilled when Jason offered her an apprenticeship position where she could work toward earning her
Red Seal under the guidance of a journeyman.
“Every day it’s something different – there’s never the same thing twice,” she says. “It’s a good trade because it’s got a little bit of everything in it. You learn a lot about electricity, and you learn about plumbing – it’s like a whole bunch of trades all in one.”
As a woman in a non-traditional trade, Nicole says she expected to run into some friction.
“I was told because I’m female I have to prove to the world that I can do this and I got a little miffed about that,” she says. “The odd place I go I get the strange look as if to say ‘What are you doing here?’ but there’s other places I go and they think it’s great.”
Nicole says she doesn’t let the naysayers get her down.
“It bothered me at first but I put my head up in the air and kept on truckin’. That’s the only thing to do. I worked really hard to get this course and those people are not going to get me down.”
Randy says that attitude makes Nicole a good person to blaze the trail.
“Maybe it will open up some doors for other women,” he says.
“She’s persistent and that’s what matters.”