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She Can Do It!

Facing a costly technician shortage and a workforce that’s rapidly reaching retirement, the construction equipment industry is actively trying to attract new talent, and, perhaps surprisingly, men aren’t the only ones answering the call. Though the heavy equipment industry is still a decidedly male-dominated field, in recent years, young women like Kristy Slack and Samantha Tanner have begun to join the ranks as technicians.

Every day, these women buck stereotypes, exceed expectations and show everyone around them that they have what it takes to survive in an industry where most of their coworkers are men. Although both have faced the “little ladies don’t work with tools” mentality, neither has let that stop them from pursuing their goals.

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Like many who gravitate to the industry, Slack’s and Tanner’s interest in equipment, how things work, and working with their hands began at an early age.

“My dad is a tree farmer, so I got to hang around tree rigs and hydraulics growing up, and from a young age I had to know how things worked,” said Slack.

Tanner’s story is similar: “My dad was a mechanic, my grandpa was a mechanic, and I’ve always been interested in finding out how things work and fixing what’s broken.”

In high school, Slack got straight A’s in her shop and auto classes, but it wasn’t until a teacher encouraged her to channel her technical interests into a career that she began to consider becoming a technician as a viable option.

“I knew I didn’t want a normal ‘female’ job, but I hadn’t seriously considered becoming a technician, because I’m a girl and that wasn’t something that girls do,” she said. “I had a shop teacher named Mr. Shaw who told me, ‘You’re really good with your hands and you love fixing things – you should pursue this as a career.’ He was the most inspirational teacher I’ve ever had, and he still checks up on me and asks how I’m doing.”

Tanner, who didn’t make the decision to pursue a career as a technician until she was attending university, regrets not having taken advantage of technical classes in high school.

“When I was in high school, shop and auto classes came and went, and now I wish I’d taken them, but I didn’t because I was quiet and introverted, and I listened to people who said that ladies don’t work with tools,” Tanner said. “Because of that, I missed out on an introduction to what is now my job.”

Tanner has worked at Toromont CAT full-time since April 2017, and Slack has been with Joe Johnson Equipment for nearly three years and is working toward eventually becoming a team lead.

“I love the variety in this job,” Slack said. “I’m excited to go to work every day because I don’t know what that day will hold.”

However, while Slack and Tanner may be happy with their jobs, that doesn’t mean everyone they work with is happy to have them there.

“You get men – and women, too – who just don’t agree with what you’re doing,” Tanner said.

Slack concurred: “Not everyone is accepting of female technicians. As a woman in a man’s industry, sometimes you get picked on or harassed. Fortunately, Joe Johnson Equipment has a no-tolerance harassment policy and they’ve been great at handling any problems I’ve had.”

For young women who may be considering careers as heavy equipment technicians, Tanner has this advice: “The job is difficult, but rewarding. Don’t doubt yourself or your capabilities.”

Slack also offered words of encouragement: “If you think you might enjoy this type of work, there are co-op programs that allow you to try it. The job may seem intimidating, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds – after a couple months of work, most people will accept you as an honorary boy.”

For more information on Toromont CAT, visit them at

www.toromontcat.com or connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+.

To learn more about Joe Johnson Equipment, visit their site at www.jjei.com. Joe Johnson Equipment is also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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