Loyalist College student Kasey Waterman is surprised to learn that when she completes her automotive service technician apprenticeship she will be the first woman in Ontario to be certified as a Mercedes-Benz automotive service technician.
Pursuing the apprenticeship, and the college courses it requires, was a challenge made easier when she was awarded a W. Garfield Weston Foundation Fellowship.
"My boss at Mercedes-Benz, who has been very encouraging, suggested I apply for scholarships. I was ecstatic to get the fellowship; the financial support is very important. If you're living paycheque to paycheque and that income stops when you go to school, it's very difficult," she says.
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation Fellowship was introduced at Loyalist College in 2013 to help participants complete their skilled trades education with significant tuition and bursary incentives. It began as a three-year pilot project with a $240,000 commitment to provide financial support to 60 skilled trades students. Since then, the foundation has provided additional funding, bringing the total support to over $500,000 for more than 130 students at Loyalist College.
But it's not only the financial support that has smoothed her path towards qualifying as a technician. Ms. Waterman also found a mentor in Jeremy Braithwaite, the W. Garfield Weston Foundation Fellowship program lead at Loyalist.
"It's been great to have Jeremy as a mentor, particularly in terms of interpersonal skills. It's helped to have a contact like him, sometimes for advice, just for a chat or to see a familiar face," she says.
Ms. Waterman hopes that in the future she will be a mentor herself, particularly for women who enter the skilled trades.
"Women face different challenges – physically it's hard work. You need someone to tell you, 'You will get stronger; it will get easier; it will get better,'" she says. "If someone gives you some emotional support, it provides that bit of extra motivation. I have benefited from that support, so I would like to help others, because it's tough."
Loyalist College interim president Dianne Spencer says The W. Garfield Weston Foundation's commitment to encourage individuals to pursue careers in the skilled trades is transformational in its impact.
"In addition to financial support through mentorship, fellows are being prepared to succeed and advance in careers in electrical, welding, manufacturing, automotive and building sciences," she adds. "In the future, they will be mentors to the next generation of students and apprentices in their fields."
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