By Rebecca Grima

SHERRY HOLMES is lending some serious girl power to the Holmes Make it Right team. The daughter of celebrity contractor Mike Holmes is paving the way, changing perceptions within the trade industry and using her passion to show that women can kick butt in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Introduced to the industry at the age of 16, Sherry started as a production assistant on the set of Holmes Make It Right, where she was exposed to the workings of a construction site. Yet, despite her early introduction to the world of construction, she still didn’t plan on following her dad’s footsteps.

“When I was a kid with my father, I would build projects,” she says. “It was a fun hobby but I never thought of it as a career option.”

That was until her dad encouraged her to take a leap of faith and try something new.

“If I didn’t have my dad, I would never have considered it. Once I turned 21, I flew to New Orleans and worked on building a house following Hurricane Katrina.”

Sherry admits she wasn’t always so confident, which is why she feels it’s so important to talk to other girls about the opportunities in trades.

OVERCOMING FEARS
“As a woman in the trades, it’s scary. First of all, for most women you are the only woman in the room. I think the most stressful aspect of it can be self-doubt: I don’t know enough. I can’t lift as much. What if they are better? I learned all it takes is effort and to put yourself out there. You’re good at whatever you put your heart into, but it takes hard work.”

A work ethic shared by another young woman challenging the norm is 19-year-old Mackenzie Braun from Winnipeg. A recent graduate from Red River College’s four-month Cabinetry and Woodworking Certificate program, this intense curriculum taught Braun about cabinet construction, understanding shrinkage and expansion of different wood species, different methods of finishing projects and drafting.

Like Sherry, Braun credits her family for supporting her along the journey in discovering the trades.

“When I was in high school, business and finance and other careers that involved sitting at a desk were pushed into our minds,” says Braun. “Although I contemplated career paths in these areas, I remember my step-mom telling me I needed to find something that ‘blew my hair back’ and I loved woodworking. I realized I didn’t want to sit at a desk. I wanted to build them.”

Through taking the course, Braun uncovered her own passion that set her on a career path.

“I went through the course and discovered my passion for custom furniture design and crafting,” she says. “My dream is to design and build custom furniture.”

DRILLING IN THE MESSAGE
As Braun’s journey begins, Sherry continues to build. She’s not only a valued team member with the Holmes Make it Right team, but she has also been chosen to be the ambassador for Habitat of Humanity’s Women’s Build and is an active member in the industry doing various speaking engagements educating on the benefits of the trades, mentoring other women to help move past their own barriers.

One of those barriers is dispelling the stigma of what it means to be a “blue collar” worker.

“People look down on trades and tradespeople,” she says. “It is really irritating. I think it is a stigma from Hollywood movies where blue collar workers, like a plumber, have been portrayed as a ‘bigger’ man with low intelligence. Everyone needs to get over that. It’s a complete falsity.”

Sherry also adds that another misconception about working in trades is that it only involves construction or landscaping.

“It’s makeup artistry, nails, baking and cooking,” says Sherry. “There are many diverse job opportunities and it can be a very lucrative career. We need more youth in the industry.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY
Sherry’s advice to parents who have teen girls curious about what it’s like to grab a hammer and a nail is to be open-minded. “Encourage your daughter(s) with anything she might be interested and have a feel of what she can do. Educate her on different opportunities. She needs a strong support system, so really be behind her.”

Braun echos the sentiment and tells other girls to “Do it. You won’t regret a single thing. You being there and striving for success will shape the industry and reform many minds and many opinions about women in a male-dominated industry.” ■

SHERRY HOLMES’ TOP 7 REASONS WHY YOUNG WOMEN SHOULD PURSUE A CAREER IN THE TRADES:
• DIVERSE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
• EDUCATIONAL ASPECT
• LUCRATIVE
• DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS
• DOORS & OPPORTUNITIES OPEN UP TO YOU
• GREAT EXPERIENCES
• PERSONAL GROWTH