Empowering women to follow their passion

Image credit: Penny Jean Wohlberg
Image credit: Penny Jean Wohlberg

Women in Trades & Technology gives women the confidence to do anything, including manage their own business!

Penny Jean Wohlberg is a journeyperson carpenter and owner of Renovation Jeannie. She is also a strong supporter of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Women in Trades & Technology (WITT) program. “For me it all started with WITT,” says Penny. “WITT is all about empowering women and giving them confidence. WITT was the catalyst that kick-started my career in the trades.”

In 2007 Penny attended a WITT Career Exploration course. These hands-on courses offer an introduction to a variety of basic trade skills including automotive servicing, carpentry, electrical, machining, plumbing, and welding. Women leave with tangible skills such as framing and erecting a wall, installing a toilet and wiring an electrical outlet. Each workshop in the course provides a one-day overview of the skills and knowledge required for each trade.

The WITT Career Exploration course changed Penny’s career path. “I jumped into the trades with both feet,” says Penny. “I worked as a laborer and then an apprentice and completed my education to become a journeyperson and start my own renovation company.” Prior to entering the trades Penny worked for just over a decade in an office, which prepared her for running the administrative side of owning a business.

“Once you get that dose of YES YOU CAN attitude, which is so contagious at the WITT Career Exploration course, it feels like there is nothing you can’t do,” shares Penny. “Including starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur!”  

When asked about the benefits of being a women running a construction company Penny says, “Many of my customers are women and they tell me that they appreciate working with another female to make their home renovation dreams a reality.”

Being an entrepreneur has lots of benefits according to Penny, including flexibility, control over your work environment and control over the projects you take on. Entrepreneurs are constantly learning new skills to run and expand their businesses including negotiating with customers, bookkeeping, project management and arranging for supplies.

“Female entrepreneurs in the skilled trades industry are essential role models for women wanting to start a trades career,” says Jessica Baldwin, WITT provincial facilitator. “As entrepreneurs, women can build a brand for their business which ultimately demystifies the idea of women working in the trades.”

In addition to running Renovation Jeannie, Penny helps teach the carpentry WITT career exploration course at Saskatoon campus, encouraging other women to follow their dreams.

WITT works with instructors, employers, professionals and non-profits to build curriculum for camps, workshops and mentorship programs that teach women valuable skills, encourage women to think about different career options and address barriers that may limit women in trades and technology. 

This article was originally published in We Build magazine. We Build is published by the Saskatchewan Construction Association. We Build showcases the Saskatchewan Construction Association and its industry, and brings together a diversity of views and opinions into one voice, the voice of Saskatchewan's construction industry.

Published September 2017.