Exterior view of Co-op Wellness Commons with MHC crest

News & Events

Intro trades course opens doors

When the door closed unexpectedly at Samantha Phillips’ hair salon in 2019, a new one opened for her just two days later.

Phillips had been a red seal hairstylist for 10 years when she saw a social media ad for an introductory trades course for women at Medicine Hat College (MHC) and thought "why not?"

At first she saw this path as a job, something to fill the gap, but the program provided an opportunity to explore the trades and earn a variety of tickets that would give her an employment edge and ultimately, a new career.

Trading her scissors for wire strippers, she pursued the path of electrical apprenticeship. The blend of classroom learning at MHC and on-the-job training that comes with a trades education offers a good balance, says Phillips.

Samm Phillips, electrical apprenticeship student

Working for the same company for almost the entire time of her apprenticeship training, her experience has been one of mutual respect and encouragement.

While it would be nice to have more women in class and in the workplace, Phillips believes the industry has been shifting in recent years as more women see examples of themselves in trades careers and recognize there is a place for them.

“Women need to see that it’s possible to pursue a different path,” says Phillips, noting her own instructor, Amanada Hennessey, is a master electrician.

She acknowledges the balance between school, work and life isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort.

“I think I’ve gotten more confident. Not just in work and school and electrical but in life. I’m standing up for myself in ways I wouldn’t have five years ago, mostly because of the people who have encouraged me.”

Now Phillips is proud to be that encouragement for other women, whether it’s a first-year apprenticeship student in any trade or her own mother embarking on a new career path.

Her advice?

“There are no regrets in trying, in everything you do you’re learning something. You will always have that experience, it’s never wasted.”

Phillips is one of 483 graduates crossing the stage at MHC's convocation celebration on June 14.