CTEI trades building

Finding the right fit: Pipefitting journeyman Laura Veitch

In recognition of International Women’s Day 2024, Camosun College talks to pipe trades alum, Laura Veitch. She made a career leap from the fashion industry and found her fit in the trades.

A woman with blonde hair and a check jacket stands in front of a rack of pipes.

Pipefitting journeyman Laura Veitch has a different professional background than most tradespeople. After 15 years working in fashion design in Toronto, she moved back to Vancouver Island to be close to her family. Not surprisingly, she had a difficult time finding full-time work in her field.

“My brother told me about Camosun’s Women in Trades Training program, and I decided to go for it,” she says. “I did the sampler program and had a taste of each of the trades. People had told me things like, ‘Women make good electricians,” but when I tried electrical, I didn’t really like it. What I ended up enjoying were the pipe trades.”

Laura thought she was destined to be a plumber, but after signing up for the union and getting a position at the shipbuilding company Seaspan, she discovered she really enjoyed pipefitting. This trade deals with steam, fuel, chemical, water and air, and can be applied in industrial, commercial and marine sectors.

She notes that her fashion background has given her transferrable skills for working in the trades. “I understood how to measure things, and all the math and fractions were easier for me. I may not have had a trades background, but my brother works in the trades and my father enjoys carpentry as a hobby. I’m familiar with the culture.”

Entering the male-dominated workforce at Seaspan proved to be a not-so-difficult transition for Laura. “The last job I worked in the fashion industry was also a male-dominated workplace, so I was prepared for this.”

Laura’s hard work and willingness to learn is paying off, as she was recognized with the inaugural Mike Ash Apprentice of the Year award at Seaspan. While she only recently became a journeyman and she’s still continuing to learn, she hopes to work her way up through the company.

“I’ve recently become a chargehand, and I now lead and manage a crew of workers. I’m proud to be the first female chargehand in Seaspan’s pipe department.”

In order to step into challenging new roles, Laura draws inspiration from the many women in her professional life and beyond. “I’m fortunate to have had strong women in my life, whether they are friends or I have worked for them. I’m also inspired by the young women I see entering the trades who exude such confidence and maturity.”

She also finds hope in increased educational messaging to young people that they can grow up to be whatever they want. “I believe exposing kids to numerous job options and diverse groups of people will help break down any doubt they have about following a certain path. With more diversity in our workplaces, I hope we will eventually get to a place where it is no longer talked about because it has become the norm.”

Laura is a shining example of career diversity and following multiple paths. Is there the possibility that her fashion path and her trades path will ever merge? “I’m still looking for that perfect-fitting pair of coveralls,” she laughs. “If I had time for a side project, I’d design them.”

Contact information

Roseanne Harvey

Marketing & Communications Strategist

Camosun College