No holding back: drywalling is the right trade for women


Jackie Payne found her calling in the trades more than 20 years ago. As a woman working as a drywaller, she knows she’s the exception rather than the rule. That certainly hasn’t stopped her, and she encourages any young people, particularly women, who want an active, rewarding job to consider her trade.

Jackie grew up in Nelson and lived in Calgary for a few years where she worked in manufacturing and at a coffee shop. Her partner at the time was a drywaller, and she was looking for a new job, so he asked her if she wanted to try drywall finishing work.

“I need to move. I need to occupy my body, to keep my body going,” she explains. She tried drywall finishing and liked it. That was in 2002, and she’s been a drywaller ever since.

In 2004, she moved back to the Kootenays. She and her partner worked together until they separated, and last fall Mark Young, owner of MGK Drywall Ltd. called her because he knew her good reputation and that she was available for work. She’s been working with Mark ever since.

How does she do it?

“It’s crazy physical work,” she says as she points out that she doesn’t have to go to the gym to stay in great shape. “It’s an extremely physical job. And you have to not be afraid to get dirty.”

“You take care of your body. You have to eat well to be able to do the work.”

She also likes listening to music, and in many jobs, she’s working in a space on her own and can have her music blaring while she works. “No one has to tell me what to do. Hours can be flexible.”

They do commercial as well as residential projects, and right now Jackie and MGK are drywalling the Skills Centre’s new building in downtown Trail.

“It’s a whole different aspect doing commercial versus a house. We have to work around the other trades. The process flows differently than with a house.” And, she notes, this gives her a chance to learn about other trades working on a build.

Rewarding work

“If I’m making a house, I’m making someone’s home. They see my work. If my work isn’t good, they see it. I get to make their place comfortable. And it’s the same with a commercial building. People notice if their space is nice. My job is very visual. You have to have a good eye for detail.”

To someone considering the trades, especially women, Jackie says, “Give it a try. You don’t know if you don’t try, as with anything in life.”

There’s no particular training required for drywalling. It’s very much a learn it on the job vocation.

“It is such a niche job. You have to have someone who is willing to teach you. It’s all about the tools and the technique. If people are willing to try, they can do it.”

And that’s one of the reasons Jackie thinks people should give it a try.

“There’s nothing holding women back from this work. It’s dirty. I love it. You can make good money. There’s a good future. You could go anywhere in the world to do this work.”

“For someone who likes to be busy, it’s a great job.”