When Nikki Noble heard she was chosen as the Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week, she didn’t hold back.
“All this recognition lately feels really nice,” she said. “I am really proud and I am so honoured.
“I’ve been in the trades for 21 years and many times, it’s felt like the polar opposite. There was a lot of really hard work and no recognition for a very long time.”
Nikki is a Red Seal welder, having started learning the trade when she was just 16 years old.
Being a female in a profession dominated by men hasn’t been easy. For many years, she was the only woman in the room.
But Nikki’s determination to overcome old stereotypes and her natural welding talent are exceptional. Both are clearly paying off.
Since 2020, she has been co-ordinator for all the welding programs and courses at Lambton College. And she’s on a mission to encourage more people to join the trades – men and women – with a little extra motivation to recruit more females.
“Nikki has exceptional passion and energy that she uses to reach out to students,” says Dave Machacek, Dean of Technology & Trades at Lambton College.
“She is an ideal role model and a leader who supports her community. I can always count on her,” said Machacek.
The college has just formed a Women in Technology committee, a group of female faculty who support one another. Nikki was named co-chair, he said.
She was also named one of six Lambton College nominees for a Premier Award, given to college grads who make social and economic contributions.
“We are very fortunate to have her,” said Machacek. “She brings something that’s unique and special to the job.”
Apart from being a skilled welder and instructor, Nikki makes time for community outreach, often two or three times a week.
“I really have to thank my personality for all of this,” she laughs. “I know that sounds cocky but you have to have a lot of confidence to do what I do.
“My personality is what it is. I stay as upbeat as possible. I am that person who demands attention when I walk into a room.”
She takes that powerhouse of a personality and regularly talks to elementary and high school students about non-traditional jobs, about their career choices, and what it’s like to be a welder.
“I go in full throttle about female empowerment, having non-traditional roles and I tell the girls they can work in the trades, they can learn to be safe, and they can still glam up. You don’t have to be a tomboy.”
When she started welding at a local fabrication shop at age 16, her parents urged Nikki to also earn a business diploma after high school. That has served her well, she said.
Today, at age 37, she lives with her husband Terry and their six-year-old daughter on a small production farm outside Sarnia. They have ethically raised animals at Huron Farms and she runs a studio where she sells her hand-cut and sculpted metal art.
The change is slow to attract more students of both genders to the trades, but it’s steady, Nikki said. Since she became co-ordinator of welding programs at Lambton College, a noticeable increase in female enrolment has occurred.
“We still don’t have enough but, every year, we get more,” she said. “We need more mentorship. We need more women. We need more in the trades, period.”