Canada’s favorite HGTV’s hosts, Kate Campbell from Decked Out, and Bryan Reid Sr from Timber Kings,  from two different family background and upbringing, shares their stories on what inspired them to pursue their passion for a career in trades as well as tips for the next generation of tradesworkers.

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, much like most of my friends.  Although I was graduating with a 93% 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. 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 was a self proclaimed tom boy.  I applied to the course and was accepted as one of 20 students. That course go 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.

Bryan Reid: My step dad was a trapper and back in the 60s, we would be on the trapline where it would sometimes reach -50 Fahrenheit. I was inspired by the log cabins on the traplines that acted as shelter against the elements and provided a comfortable refuge. This is where I fell in love with the rustic simplicity of a log cabin - they were magnificent. A First Nations man, named Samson Jack, taught me how to build my first log home and I worked with him for the next seven years, remaining lifelong friends. I began my working career as an apprentice mechanic but my love of loghomes trumped. 

MP: What qualities does a successful tradesperson have?

KC: There are SO MANY qualities that a successful tradesperson has to have.  You truly have to be a multifaceted person that can and will wear many hats, especially as a tradesperson running your own business.  A couple of the number one qualities would be dedication and work ethic.  A career in the trades isn’t always easy, but if you’re determined and work hard, you’ll go a long way.  A successful trades person also has vision.  They can walk on to a job site and see what has to be done and they can picture the finished project.  Communication is also huge as a tradesperson.  Communication with your colleagues, homeowners and other sub trades.  Business sense is another quality that will allow you to be successful in the trades, even when working as an employee for another company.  You need to know how to quote, what the job costs are, how valuable your time is, how to run a job efficiently - even if it’s just to understand and appreciate how a job site and business works.  Problem solving skills would top the list for me as well and the constant challenge on site is one of the reasons I love what I do.  Every day is different and every job is different.  You’re presented with new problems and need to work through different scenarios and solutions daily which means you’re always learning. 

BR: Passionate about what you want to do. People in the trades play a very important role in the lives of others: those other’s would not have a beautiful car, a highway to drive on or a house to live in if it wasn’t for the many trades that build our infrastructure and shape our lives. What was originally looked down upon as menial work, the trades are now recognized as being an invaluable part of our society. The trades make the world go around. 

Work ethic – it’s tough work. Specifically, log building is very physical, working with extremely sharp tools and heavy objects. A tradesperson must always be aware of what’s happening around them.

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% 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 its made me stronger, wiser and tougher!

BR: I feel like I’ve been retired for 44 years because I love my job. I work for the nicest people in the world. Generally, we don’t build people’s first homes, rather we build their dream homes in dream areas, oftentimes when the children have left the family household and when Parent’s are looking to retire and live their dream. It can be a very emotional journey when families share their lives with us, and we are so grateful. 

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 equally promote and encourage both paths as successful, viable options.

BR: A common misconception is that the trades can be boring and mundane, or poor paying. My team and I have been to over twenty different countries on four continents applying our trade, and I would have a hard time to name another profession that’s been requested in such capacity. Pioneer Log homes is not situated in what is considered the center of the Universe – we are located in William’s Lake, British Columbia, and our services have been requested and applied all over the world. There’s no geographical limit if you’re the best at what you do.

MP: What tips and advice do you have for those looking to get into the trades?

KC: I would tell someone that was considering getting into the trades, TRY IT! Take a course, learn some basic skills.  Seek out an apprenticeship.  Get paid to learn instead of leaving university with loads of debt seeking out employment that you may not get. Talk to others in the trades and find a mentor. Do your research but don’t be afraid to jump in and pick up a power tool, you never know where it may lead!

BR: Make your choice and go for it. Don’t procrastinate and set your sights high. Pick the trade you like and be the best there is. And never settle for less. As Sir Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up."