Trailblazer: Danielle Bombardier’s Journey
In our eyes, Danielle Bombardier has accomplished the VWW vision: she made a fearless commitment to pursuing her dreams to become an electrician, despite being a field where women are under-represented. When we first interviewed Danielle in 2016 she was on the verge of completing a five-year-long apprenticeship to become an electrician. Three years later, the former participant is now a driving force behind Vermont Works for Women’s (VWW) new Trailblazers program, an initiative designed to expand women’s access to training, apprenticeships, and jobs in the electrical, plumbing, and construction fields.
Is there anything from your VWW Step Up training in 2011 that you still carry with you?
Step Up was my first introduction to tool use. Once I was working in the field, the program helped me build my confidence and skill in using tools. Step Up also provided me with a strong support network to stay connected to, which I always carry with me in “my toolbox!”
What have you been up to since we last interviewed you in 2016?
Upon completion of the apprenticeship program in June 2016, I was awarded the “Apprentice of the Year” award by the IBEW Local 300. I was asked to teach a class for the apprenticeship the following year and had the opportunity to travel to Michigan with about 2,000 other electricians in order to receive training on how to teach. I taught the second year of apprenticeship beginning in September 2016 for the next year and it was an extremely rewarding experience, continually testing my knowledge and understanding of the trade.
I tested for my electrical license in October of 2016, officially becoming a “journeyworker” with IBEW. In September of 2017, I took a job working for IBEW Local 300 as membership development director and training director for the IBEW apprentices, so I put my tools away for the time being. In my new role, I am working on bringing more electricians into the IBEW (the electrician’s union), teaching contractors about the IBEW, developing a curriculum and finding instructors for the apprenticeship classes, and engaging our current members in the community and organizational events. It was a difficult choice to leave the field – I love working with tools and being physically active on the job. There was so much satisfaction in creating something each day that was tangible; and at the completion of a project, seeing your work come alive so to speak was an empowering moment.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I am working once again with Vermont Works for Women, this time around I am not a participant, but helping to lead a new cohort of tradeswomen through the Trailblazers program. It feels amazing to be working with two organizations (the IBEW and VWW) that brought me to this place in my life and career that I never imagined possible. I am so excited to share my story and experience with the women who are coming into the trades today and in the future.
The trades are absolutely a viable career option for women – the jobs are high paying and offer room for advancement in many different ways. The work is rewarding, and the industry needs diversity in order to continue operating and growing.
Why should women consider exploring careers in the construction trades?
Vermont Works for Women prepared me physically and mentally to get out on the job and be successful. Their program gave me the confidence boost I needed and a basic level of skill so I wouldn’t feel foolish. There were a lot of learning opportunities and plenty of times I’ve laughed at myself over the years in the trade, but it was the best move I could have made for myself and my family. I encourage any woman who has an inkling of interest to give it a shot. The transition to a trades career really can be a life-changer.