Meet OTI Graduate, Catherine Rehm

OTI received a wonderful email from Catherine updating us on her job and how well life was progressing for her, and we were so inspired, we asked her to share a little more about her OTI experience. Thank you, Catherine, and congratulations on finding such a rewarding new path!
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I’d heard about Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. (OTI) some years ago, maybe in 2010. At that time, I was working as a bartender in the morning 7:00 am to 2:30 pm. It was a well-known dive bar near the Willamette so we had lots of longshoremen and one woman who always come in. They were really down to earth and great tippers and the subject of OTI came up randomly. I looked in to it at the time, but didn’t feel I could commit to the schedule of OTI’s program. But the idea was stored away for future reference.

I had sort of been thinking about a career in the trades before I heard about OTI’s program. I was aware of the income potential – it definitely piqued my curiosity – but when I followed the thought through to the logical outcome – and considering my background and experience – I didn’t see a way forward for myself at that time.

Just before I actually started OTI’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), I was trying to make the best of a challenging and low-paying job. I was also suffering through finishing and paying for my college degree and coming to terms with the fact that even getting my diploma wasn’t going to really help me reach my goals professionally in the science world.

The TAC Class was physically challenging. I liked building stuff and learning about different tools. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I hadn’t thought about before: the construction of stuff; how things are put together.

“…OTI fostered an environment of growth and so I found a lot of strengths I didn’t necessarily realize I had within me…”

It was inspirational for me too. Construction skills are widely applicable and problem solving skills are often necessary. It was somewhat like a boot camp. I had my fair share of challenges with interpersonal stuff with some of the other personalities, but OTI fostered an environment of growth and so I found a lot of strengths I didn’t necessarily realize I had within me; and I plugged through. Plus, I had some really awesome positive cohorts slugging through their own stuff at my side and it helped ease growing pains. Simply put though, the Neel sisters and Donna are my true heroes at OTI. Plus a shout out to their supporters.

I landed my interview with my current employer the day after I graduated from OTI and I was hired! I am now a welder/fitter. I love it. I want to continue down this path and I’m seeking to advance my career in this field, perhaps as a certified welding inspector. My employer has programs in place to supplement the cost of additional education and classes/workshops pertaining to knowledge and skill enhancement within my field. Being an OTI alumni totally opened this door and gave me a “solid in” on getting the job.

“Graduating has built a confidence in me and a belief that I can thrive. Not just plod along, but excel. “

There’s a sisterhood and a camaraderie between OTI alums as well as other women in the trades. There aren’t that many of us and we realize that it’s good to have each-others’ backs…and bring others in. Graduating has built a confidence in me and a belief that I can thrive. Not just plod along, but excel. OTI helped me find a strength that I didn’t really see in myself before; they gave me permission to be a bad-ass; to bring out my potential, and to really shine.

I’m now making more money than I’ve ever made before. My partner helped support me getting through the program and now I’m able to do that in turn for him as he looks to reinvent himself. I have a career, where I didn’t before, in a field I would have never imagined myself in but that suits me better than anything I could have imagined. I get to use my problem-solving skills, my high energy level, intellect, people skills, kindness and attention to detail and there are many opportunities for advancement in this field. I actually love going to work! Oh, and I don’t need a gym membership! I’m totally ripped now just from working! It’s putting to use my aptitude for navigating the male-dominated field that I’m in. With confidence, individuality and security.

My new career is not without challenges, but finding an environment where you can be your best self that best suits your skill set is what you should aim for.  (Read up on wolves. Pack mentality. The Yin and the Yang too if you want.) If you’ve grown up with brothers, then you know how it is. They’re going to tease you to death. But pretty much to test your mettle. They’re going to be dudes. They’re going to be quiet and standoffish until they get a baseline of trust….literally…you’re not making sudden movements. A little bit of levity goes a long way with the boys.  Notice their efforts too. There is a subtlety between playfulness and sniping. There’s a time to shrug it off and a time to take a stand. And if you must take a stand, always go through proper channels. Make sure your “sh*t don’t stink” and bring your BEST game because they’re ALL watching you!!!


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