Touchpoints of influence

Published on November 30, 2022

Machinist apprentice, Vance Monaghan, chats about his journey to a career in trades and the impact of receiving NAIT student awards

Parental example

In childhood, I developed a keen interest in the intricate world around me. Some people look at the big picture when they question how things work but I took a slightly different approach and wondered how small, seemingly insignificant things impacted us. Much of my inquisitiveness started and grew though the time I spent with my father, who graduated NAIT as a journeyman plumber/gasfitter back in 2004. A lot of my childhood was spent helping him with miscellaneous jobs, gaining hands-on experience and an appreciation for hard work and dedication. Through his influence and example, I was motivated to get a trade as I felt the need to work with my hands and produce something of quality and meaning for the world (however small that thing might be).

Being in the right place at the right time

When I was in junior high school, I spent a lot of time working on little science projects and experiments. One such project was trying to make a metal crucible that I saw on YouTube. I would spend days filing and sanding crude pieces of cast metal into shape. My dad knew I was frustrated with this slow and labour-intensive process, so he recommended I go talk to the machinist down the road. This was a turning point! My curiosity had led me to hone into a specific trade and answered some of my questions about how everyday products function and are made. I soon found myself staying after hours at the machinist’s shop practicing and learning new skills.

Fast forward to high school and many of my friends were headed to large universities in a variety of fields. I had the academic record to enter university but couldn’t find a field or line of work that I would be truly happy with. During my grade 12 year, a representative from the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) came in to discuss the potential of career in trades. Also, all my shop teachers, whom I admired for their skill and problem-solving wisdom, had actively endorsed skilled trades over going to university.

Even with all of that, I was still undecided on a career at my high school graduation ceremony when I was approached by a rep from a local large-scale machine manufacturer. He presented me with the opportunity to apprentice as a machinist. I was thrilled to accept, as the company had a very advanced and modern facility and, up to this point, I had been learning a dated and traditional way of machining. I enrolled at NAIT soon after and realized that all this time, I had been slowly nudged into this position where I knew I would be truly happy and be able to feed my unending ambition to grow and learn.

Gifts that keep on giving

In addition to receiving all this encouragement throughout the years and having great examples of successful trades people, I’ve also had the good fortune to receive support in the way of grants and scholarships.

As a NAIT student award recipient, I have experienced how they enhance a student’s experience. The awards I’ve received have given me the gift of confidence in developing my skills, validation that all the hard work I put in during my studies was worth it, and confirmation that I made a great choice in both a career and my school. Receiving NAIT student awards have also given me opportunities to network and build stronger relationships with my skilled trades community.

Future plans

I’m proud to be on my way to becoming a second-generation tradesperson and a second-generation NAIT graduate. My journey won’t stop though when I receive my machinist ticket. I plan to use my newly refined problem-solving skills and ability to work in challenging environments to carve a niche for myself in mechanical engineering, finance or business ownership.