By the time she’d turned 30, Shylah Nokusis was a Red Seal carpenter, a second-year ironworker, and a second-year scaffolder. She’d travelled across Canada, started a business, and paid off her house. She’d built a gratifying life – an achievement she attributes to a career in the trades.
Her journey started with a pre-employment carpentry course offered through Saskatchewan Polytechnic. At the time, she hadn’t seen many women in the trades, so she was hesitant to apply.
“Growing up, I always thought construction was a man’s job, that there was no place for women,” Shylah says. “But I decided to register and got accepted right away.”
Soon, Shylah was working on projects across the country, including doing ironwork on a number of Costcos from Ontario to Manitoba to B.C. Eventually, with the skills she developed on the job, she started her own contracting business in Saskatchewan.
As an Indigenous business owner, Shylah made a point to bid on jobs on local reserves, including the reserve she grew up on in Peepeekisis Cree Nation. She wanted to help Indigenous youth – women, in particular – discover the trades as a viable career path; in fact, she employed several people in her community.
“I’d often get approached by women and youth, and they were shocked to see a woman having her own construction company and being the boss. It’s very important that Indigenous People know how rewarding a career in the trades is.”
Today, Shylah continues to be a role model in her community as a Project Coordinator with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices in Saskatchewan. Here, Shylah builds relationships with unions, training institutions, government bodies, and Indigenous communities to help women start and grow their careers in construction.
I’m so grateful right now to be able to help people,” Shylah says. “To me, it’s honestly not a job. It’s getting paid to do something that I really like.”
Choosing to work in construction brought Shylah financial independence, a sense of accomplishment, and more – and now, she wants others to know that they can have that choice, too.
“When I grew up, it was either you went to university or that’s it. That’s not the way people should look at it. Working in the trades, there are so many doors that open. There are so many different ways you can succeed.”