Hannah Leslie loves working with her hands.
A semester removed from the Carpentry Foundations Program at Camosun College, where she was the youngest in the class, the Belmont student secured enough credits to graduate high school before the last semester started.
Already having raised eyebrows by securing a $500 Vancouver Island Construction Association scholarship, her construction teacher at Belmont said none of Hannah’s accomplishments come as any surprise to him.
“In a trade that is male-dominated, some people hide, they lack that confidence. Hannah didn’t lack the determination to jump in,” Jason said.
“That is what I noticed, that Hannah was different…she just jumped in and did it.”
Jason, who shares the same last name but is no relation, said he had never met a female who just wanted to be a carpenter like Hannah did at the time – and saw her grow from someone who was little bit reserved to start, to someone who was taking control of her own learning.
“Flipping through the still pictures from the beginning of the semester to the end, (you see) she was off to the side in February watching while males did it. But you see later on in March and April she now had tools in her hand and the guys are off to the side,” Jason said.
“Not that she pushed them aside, you could (just) see her comfort and confidence grow.”
He remembers Hannah was also often the first to finish the national certifications and competencies exams, where he realized right away she had the “textbook smarts,” before he had the opportunity to see her work with her hands.
Having taught her for a semester, he said “surprised,” but “proud,” when Hannah became the first female to win the VIMA scholarship.
“It’s pretty exciting and it’s cool for me to see. Usually only guys win them so it is cool as a woman to achieve that. I know that when I was looking to get into carpentry it was kind of weird,” Hannah said.
“There was no girls, you never hear about girls going really far in carpentry, but hopefully other (females) will.”
She said she is very much an outdoor person who enjoys working with her hands, following the footsteps of her father who has been a carpenter as long as she remembers.
Hannah will have already had two construction jobs as an apprentice before she’ll have attended her prom.
“When I was working in carpentry it was the happiest I have ever been, it doesn’t seem like work to me. Even though there is so much (labour), there is so much to be learned and so much to explore,” Hannah said.
“When you are a carpenter, that is really exciting…I just found something I really love doing.”
Jason said the possibilities for Hannah are endless, especially with the construction industry changing from a “blue collar plan B, to an option over white collar jobs.”
“People like Hannah are going to be the leaders in the construction industry in the West Shore. Once she has her Red Seal in carpentry she can go to way more higher levels and that is where I see her going,” Jason said.
“I see her working through every person male or female, working through all the facets of carpentry and becoming a journeyman or journeywoman, and once she has that certification she can look at project management.”