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Alumni Engagement

Hard work, motivation pays off for Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic grad

April 24, 2017

Billie-Jo Laird, Bison TransportAs a Red River College student, Billie-Jo Laird worked hard while completing her work placement. And for both her and her employer, that hard work paid off.

In the fall of 2015, while attending RRC’s Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic program, Laird was sent to Bison Transport for the first of two work placements. By the summer, Laird was a Level 1 Tractor Apprentice in Bison’s maintenance shop.

“Before the end of school I had already secured my job,” Laird says. “I got good reviews from both (work placements), and come June, when everyone was looking for work, Bison contacted one of my instructors at school to ask me to contact them about a job they wanted to offer me.

“I asked my instructor, ‘Does that usually happen?’ He said, ‘No.’”

“When students come in here and ask me, ‘Do you have any ideas for how to get a job?’ I say, ‘Just show your motivation. Don’t treat your work placement like a two-week vacation. This is your job interview. Ask as many questions as you want, just don’t slack off.’”

No one could accuse Laird of slacking off. In 2014, she earned her Mature Student High School Diploma. Prior to earning her Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic certificate from RRC, Laird was working in fast-food restaurants. Now, she’s putting in 12-hour days, from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. no less, at Bison.

On top of that, she’s a mom caring for her two sons, aged seven and eight, as well as her own mother. With her family as motivation (that, and a lot of coffee), Laird is determined to work her way up at Bison.

“I’ve finished my Level 1 accreditation and I’ll soon be going back for Level 2,” Laird says. “I’m not putting a time on it, because I completely understand the fact that life will throw a curveball at you, but I will be going for my Level 4 and my interprovincial [accreditation]. I want my Red Seal. I started and I want to finish.”

A determined worker, Laird says she can’t stand to leave a job unfinished.

“I know I have to do it sometimes, but I don’t want to leave what I’ve started for someone else to finish. I want to do it,” she explains. “There are days, especially if I’m learning something new, that I will stay longer just to learn. I want to learn so the next time something like that comes around, I can get in there.

“I want to be an asset to where I’m working. I don’t want to be somebody just getting paid.”

Whether she’s performing an oil change, fixing a windshield or troubleshooting and repairing a driveline, Laird says she loves her job — especially the opportunity to work with her hands.

“Every now and then I’ll go outside on break and look inside the shop or at the parking lot, and I’ll see all the trucks and it’s just an awesome feeling of knowing, ‘OK, I’m part of this,’” Laird says.

“The people, the atmosphere, the team I’m working with, it’s like I’m not even going to work. They’re like family. They don’t hold it against you if you don’t know something. They say, ‘Just ask.’”

She’s the only woman in the shop, but Laird said she’s never been treated like anything other than a mechanic.

“I told them when I started to just treat me like one of the guys, and that’s how it is,” Laird says.

“I said, ‘Don’t hold back.’ I’ve told them if I ever cross the line to just let me know. I can actually be me and just joke around, and given the kind of person I am, it helps to joke around if I’m nervous or stressed. It eases everything and makes everything go smoothly.”

— Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)