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“I’ve learned that you can’t do the job of tomorrow with the skills of today. You need to continually upgrade.”
Megan Mathes has helped build the environments where Albertans live, work, heal, play, learn, eat and shop for more than 2 decades. Along the way, she’s led and mentored countless others to do the same. She is a tradesperson, a mentor and a leader who has made a significant impact on the trades and apprenticeship system over the past 2 decades.
Megan became involved in the trades as a teenager in Lethbridge, Alberta. After family and life circumstances led her to dropping out of school, she worked as the evening manager at a fast food restaurant. When the equipment like the fryers, shake machine or coffee maker would break, Megan would try to repair it herself. The repair company quickly realized that this was both a risk and an opportunity, and they offered Megan a job as an apprentice commercial appliance service technician.
While working for this appliance repair company, Megan became fascinated with refrigeration, due to the complexity of all the inner working systems. After attending community college in the evenings to get a high school equivalency diploma to meet the trade entrance requirements, Megan began a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic (RACM) apprenticeship. She attended technical training at SAIT and became a certified Red Seal RACM journeyperson in 2003. She later went on to complete her gasfitter “A” certification and her Achievement in Business Competencies (Blue Seal).
“I’ve learned that you can’t do the job of tomorrow with the skills of today. You need to continually upgrade,” she says, “It’s a journey; it’s not a destination.”
From the very beginning of her career, Megan has been involved with the Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AIT) industry network. She has been involved with the Calgary Local Apprenticeship Committee (LAC) and the Provincial Apprenticeship Committee (PAC), both of which she was a presiding officer for and served the maximum term. Through these committees, she helped to establish training and certification standards, including course outlines and exams. In 2014, she was appointed as a member of the AIT Board, where she served the maximum 6-year term, sat on 4 standing committees and served as vice-chair from May 2018 to September 2020.
“I joined the LAC as soon as I was certified,” she says, “I’ve now spent an 18 year time period volunteering with AIT. The journey has been tremendous, interacting with all the different trades and occupations and different folks who help form and support apprentices in the province.”
Currently, Megan is an esteemed member of SAIT’s School of Construction Deans Advisory Board, which is a group of industry leaders who help advise the dean of the school on strategic direction. This board helps SAIT ensure that its programming serves the needs of industry now and in the future.
Megan has devoted countless hours to helping people learn about the trades, get involved in the trades and work in the trades. When World Skills was in Calgary in 2009, Megan was a member of the Skills Provincial Technical Committee and judged in the provincial competition. Since then, she has continued to volunteer with Skills Canada Alberta and Skills Canada (national), and has been proud to see her 2 children both participate in the Alberta Skills Competition. She also volunteers for career fairs with CAREERS: The Next Generation.
“I love talking with young people about options with getting into the trades,” she says. “I love seeing these high school students with their eyes blurry with all the options. I try and help line them up with a trade that may fit their passions and what drives them.”
Megan is a leader in taking on new apprentices and has donated a great deal of time and resources ensuring their success. She is active with hiring people out of SAIT’s pre-employment programs so they can secure their first job in the trade and step into apprenticeship. By opening those doors for people, she’s had a transformative effect on their lives. She believes in training apprentices not just on the technical aspects of the trades but to grow as individuals and become higher, deeper thinkers with stronger problem solving and troubleshooting abilities. She’s known for being patient with apprentices and giving them extra support in a variety of different circumstances.
“I’ve embraced the teaching method of ‘see one, do one, teach one’,” she says. “You teach someone a new skill by showing them how it’s done, then by having them show you the skill and providing feedback. And then when they can teach that skill to someone else, that’s when they’ve proved and validated that they’ve truly learned that skill.”
As an openly transgender woman, advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in the trades is a passion for Megan.
“There is an underserved market of people who are eligible and ready to work in the trades. I encourage employers everywhere to get more educated on equity, diversity and inclusion and find ways to bring equity-seeking groups into the trades,” she says. “We’ve come leaps and bounds about existing in the space. Everyone wants to exist. Everyone wants to come to work. Everyone wants to do a good job. We all need to stand up to support each other as individuals, allow them all to coexist in this space, do our part to prevent bullying, to prevent harassment, and to just allow everyone to be included.”
Megan lives in Calgary with her spouse Rebecca, who also works in the construction industry. Their 2 sons are on their own journey; Renton is in University studying psychology and Camden is a Red Seal Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic. Megan and Rebecca enjoy camping in their travel trailer and mountain biking.
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