Tradeswomen Tuesday: Jessica Mendenhall, Boilermaker, Local 83, Kansas City Missouri

What attracted you to the trade?

I'm a third year apprentice out Local 83. I joined the trade in July of 2012. ​I am a second generation Union Boilermaker. I was intrigued by the stories my father would tell me when he'd come home from jobs after being gone for so long. I always saw that nobody never understood some of the things he would talk about, but from the start, I'd sit and listen and try to learn about it. My father's pride in his work and being a part of a brotherhood meant a lot to him and I wanted so badly to be a part of that.

What was it like when you first started?

When I first started, I was very nervous, as most people are when they start. I did everything I could to absorb information and ask as many questions as I could. I was blessed to have many people take the time to stop and show me how something was done. They never made me feel little for not being as competent as them.

What do you enjoy most about the trade? What are the challenges?

I enjoy the closeness with my brothers and sisters, knowing I can count on them to be there for me as I try to be there for them through anything, work or life.

The biggest challenge I've started to overcome is showing the guys I'm not afraid to carry my own weight. They would come along and see me carrying something rather large and would try to carry it for me. That upset me the most, I strongly believe if you can't pull your own weight, then you shouldn't be in this trade. But with that I also learned that it’s okay to ask for help every now and then.

If I could back I would have started as a boilermaker straight out of high school instead of trying a year of college first. I feel like I've found something I enjoy doing and I'm learning every day so there's never any boredom from repetitive activities.

What is your vision for the future?

I hope to see more women and men joining the trade because it is dying. Many men and women fought to keep our trade and our working conditions alive and we owe it to them to keep the legacy rolling.