Often times it is the son who follows in his father’s footsteps to a career in the trades, but the Belisle family is a bit different. Rod Belisle is the Executive Director at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center in Portland, Oregon and it is his daughter Melanie who has found success in the trades as an electrician.
Rod’s story began in high school when he worked for his father who was a general contractor. After Rod graduated, he continued to work for his father, operating heavy machinery. It was on a job, excavating for an electrical company that belonged to his father’s friend, when his interest in becoming an electrician was ‘sparked’. Both Rod’s father and his father’s friend encouraged him to pursue a career as an electrician. The rest is history: Rod has worked at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center for 19 years!
Rod’s daughter Melanie initially had no interest in doing what her father did until her mother encouraged her to visit Oregon Tradeswomen’s annual Career Fair. There, Melanie had the chance to speak with the now retired Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen, Connie Ashbrook, who talked Melanie into entering Oregon Tradeswomen’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC). Melanie was initially drawn to the sprinkler-fitter trade, but as TACC progressed, she found a new interest in the electrical trade.
Melanie’s plan to become an electrician actually surprised Rod, but he supported her decision 100%. To make sure she was serious about her career choice, Rod encouraged Melanie to work as a material handler as she awaited placement into the apprenticeship program. Because of her father’s high ranking in the organization, he made it clear that he would have to be completely separate from her at work to maintain professionalism and avoid any conflicts of interest.
In the five years Melanie has been part of IBEW Local 48, she has earned her own level of respect. She is now a journeyman wireman. She has had a good experience as a woman in the industry and was given her the chance to prove herself on her own merit.
Melanie values her connection with her father and likes having someone close to her who she can talk about work with and who understands what its like to be an electrician. Melanie also thinks its exciting to be following in her father’s footsteps all while breaking stereotypes of sons being the only ones to join their fathers in the trades.
Rod has always been aware of the need for more women in the trades and having Melanie pursue a career as an electrician just enhanced his dedication to supporting women to succeed in this male-dominated industry. His vision for the future of women in the industry is the expectation that any woman could apply for an apprenticeship and be treated exactly the same as any man. He would also like to see a social climate where it is not a surprising thing to see women working on a construction site. He also hopes the same for men who are interested in careers traditionally labeled as “women’s jobs”, such as nursing.
Melanie hopes to see more women in the trades, too, not only on the job site, but as supervisors, managers, inspectors, and other leadership positions. It is important to have all aspects of the industry reflecting the idea that women are fully competent and that trades careers are not just for men.
Rod is incredibly proud of Melanie for her hard work in establishing herself as an electrician and is glad that she chose to pursue it as a career. Her hard work and perseverance is apparent and Rod knows that his daughter has the right stuff to live her dream. He looks forward to the day when Melanie achieves her goal of becoming a foreman.
Rod sets a phenomenal example of how to be an ally and how to support a young woman to succeed in apprenticeship and a thrive in a career in the trades.
We wish Rod and all the other fathers a very Happy Fathers Day!