Mediaplanet caught up with HGTV star Kate Campbell to find out why she decided to pursue a career in the trades, and how she defies stereotypes in a male-dominated industry.

Mediaplanet: What inspired you to pursue a career in the trades?

Kate Campbell: I really didn’t know what I wanted to do out of high school. Although I was graduating with a 93 percent academic average, I was lost. I knew I didn’t want to go to university just to go to university, but I had never really been presented with another option. When I approached my guidance counsellor with my problem, unfortunately all I received in return was a list of universities I should apply to.

I talked my situation through with my parents and they backed my decision to forgo university to go and travel. Upon my return, I still needed to find something to pursue as a career, and that is when my mom presented me with an option that I had never really considered before. She had found an ad in our local paper promoting a Women In Skilled Trades course and thought it was perfect for me. I was athletic, I loved working with my hands, problem solving, and I was a self-proclaimed tomboy. I applied to the course and was accepted as one of 20 students. That course got my foot in the door in the world of the trades and from the first time I picked up a power tool I knew I was hooked! The rest is history.

MP: What is the hardest part of your job?

KC: One of the hardest parts about my job has been constantly battling preconceived notions. Being a woman on a job site isn’t always easy — we represent under 10 percent of the skilled labour force and when you walk onto a job site, it can be intimidating. I’ve had to work through blatant discrimination, subtle discrimination, battles in my own mind, fear, and failure, and have come out on top. It wasn’t always easy, but I always had a goal in mind and knew I was where I belonged. Secondly, I would say that sometimes the long hours and physical side of my job can wear on me, but it has made me stronger, wiser, and tougher!

MP: What’s the best part about your job?

KC: The best part about my job would have to be the ability to control my own destiny! Being in the trades has opened up so many doors and opportunities for me that I would have never dreamed were possible. I work hard but I’m doing what I love. After 11 years of hard work while working for others, I’m finally at the point where I have taken the leap into entrepreneurship and running my own jobs and company. It’s been one of the scariest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I plan, quote, design, and build and at the end of the day, there is something tangible in front of me that I built with my own hands from the ground up.

MP: What do you find is the biggest misconception about a career in the trades?

KC: I believe the biggest misconception about a career in the trades is that it’s a consolation prize. The thinking “Oh, you couldn’t get into university so you became a tradesperson” is an absolute lie. Some of the smartest, most passionate, driven, and successful people I know are tradespeople. Our education system needs to find a way to promote and encourage both paths equally as successful, viable options.