Time For a Change
I started working in fast food in the tenth grade. My mom was single and I wanted to help her out. I became a supervisor and eventually an assistant manager. I worked at KFC for 11 years, Wendy’s for 3 and Subway for a while too.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t work in food service for the rest of my life. I had a friend who had a plumbing company, Cat Lady Plumbing & Heating, and she gave me my start. It’s an all-female company. For the first year I worked from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the plumbing job, and then from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Wendy’s.
For my plumbing and gas-fitting tickets I went to NAIT and got really good marks; I got an Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Scholarship and two NAIT scholarships. Before I started going there people had said that NAIT was a world-class institute. After only five sessions there, I agreed. The teaching quality is really excellent. They provide a really good mix of theoretical and practical information.
I work for the City of Edmonton now. I’m the first female plumber they’ve ever had. There's a female carpenter, welder and electrician, but otherwise it’s male-dominated for trades.
They say it’s tough for women to be plumbers, but once you get your ticket you can practically choose what you want for work. The skills in I learned in restaurant management have transferred over too. They actually taught me a lot about responsibility and day-to-day management.
Jenn Dahlen is a licensed plumber and gasfitter for the City of Edmonton. She also leads the plumbing crew for the Edmonton Street Performers Festival and is part of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival site crew. In her spare time she plays clarinet with the St. Albert Community Band and was formerly the activities coordinator for Womonspace, a social and recreational society in Edmonton.