Women excelling in skilled trades at FMF Cape Scott
By Ryan Melanson,
The modern Royal Canadian Navy is one taking steps to promote an increasingly diverse workforce along gender lines, with proud men and women serving alongside each other across ranks and trades. And while women can be found in all roles on RCN ships, these efforts are also taking place behind the scenes, and amongst the largely-civilian teams at the Navy’s Fleet Maintenance Facilities.
At FMF Cape Scott in Halifax, Angela Bezanson, a certified red seal industrial mechanic, is one of the many women among the roughly 1,200 skilled employees who support the Atlantic Fleet. She’s been with FMF for 12 years, and as a Marine Mechanical Technician, works on maintaining the underwater weapons systems found in HMC ships and submarines.
“The best part about working in the trades for the RCN is the pride in the work we do,” Bezanson said.
“The work plays a part in protecting our country, and it allows the ship’s companies to perform at their best and come home safe.”
It’s a demanding and often stressful job that brings new challenges each day, and has even taken Bezanson out of the country to help maintain ship equipment as part of a mobile repair parties. Working with, and learning from, experienced colleagues, however, has allowed her to gain confidence and take on new responsibilities over the years.
“I’ve stayed with the organization because it continues to challenge me. My job builds confidence and allows for individual growth,” she added.
Just as the RCN takes pride in creating opportunities for women to excel among the ranks, the organization has also shown a commitment to supporting women in the trades, and it’s something employees at Cape Scott feel they can take advantage of.
“It’s not a secret that this is still a male-dominated field, which is the way it’s always been, but we’re definitely seeing more women moving up and into new roles within the organization. I think there are plenty of opportunities for those who want them,” Bezanson said.
“There’s a lot of different paths your career can take, which is one of the perks of being here. I didn’t realize that before I came to Cape Scott, and it’s something I try to share with people. This is a huge organization and there’s a lot of room for growth depending on your aspirations.”
As someone who’s recently taken advantage of one of those opportunities to advance her career, Narissa Crawford-Daniels echoed those comments. After more than a decade supporting FMF from her desk job in administration, she’s recently moved to the shop floors to begin an apprenticeship, and says there’s no regrets six months into the change.
“It was scary coming into a new environment after following the same work routine for 13 years, but I’ve had a lot of support so far.”
As a ship repair apprentice, her first jobs have focused on the weatherproof tarps and coverings that are needed for equipment on ships, and Crawford-Daniels said completing the first project in her new shop was a milestone moment.
“To start something from a pattern, put together the materials and actually create and finish it is very different from the work I was doing before. The result of the work was a tangible thing in my hands that I created, to be used on a ship. It felt awesome.”
Both women said they saw their workplace as attractive option for women looking to start or advance a career in the skilled trades inside a respectful and supportive environment.
“You won’t regret it. The opportunities here allow you to make your career as diverse as you want it to be,” Bezanson said.