2014 Winners

Sudbury | Tradeswoman of the year

Sarah Hunter

Sarah Hunter

For as long as she can remember, Sarah Hunter wanted to work in the electrical field, continuing the legacy that had been set by her father, grandfather, and stepfather before her.

"My dad is a lineman, and I wanted to be a lineman as a little girl growing up," she said. "I wanted to be just like daddy."

So, there was no question, when she enrolled in the electrical engineering technology program at Cambrian College, what her end goal would be. Yet despite her enthusiasm, she initially struggled with the physical exam portion, thwarting her eligibility for apprenticeship.

"I failed and I cried, but I got right back in there and passed," Hunter said. "My mom always told me growing up that there's no such thing as the words 'I can't,' and really that's what it came down to: I'm not giving up. I can do this."

She followed up on that promise and was hired by Vale in 2005 for an industrial electrical apprenticeship.

In her nine-year career with Vale—where she's worked at three different mines and four surface plants—she's never once encountered gender-related discrimination and has felt welcome from day one.

Hunter said the workplace has been a phenomenal training ground where everyone—from veterans with 20 years of experience to new electricians just coming on the job—provides insight into how to make the workplace safer and more efficient.

"If we're not sure if it's the right way, the safest way to do something, everybody's open to discussing how to do something properly," she said.

Her position has also given her the opportunity to be a role model, and Hunter said she is always encouraging others to keep going because "things will always work out if you try hard enough."

That positive attitude has left an impression on her colleagues and mentors.

David J. Daigle, an electrical supervisor at Vale's nickel refinery in Copper Cliff, cited dependability, efficiency and diligence, along with dedication and willingness to help others as Hunter's outstanding traits.

"I have seen her resolve conflicts and handle other difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact," Daigle said. "Sarah has overcome the challenges of competing in a male-dominant trade and obtained her career through hard work and determination."

Brian Rachkowski, who helped Hunter secure her apprenticeship with Vale, has watched her grow from her days as a student to a working professional, and his admiration for her tenacity and perseverance is palpable.

"Sarah was and is a determined young lady that only ever wanted to become an electrician, raise a family and work at Vale like her grandfather did," Rachkowski said. "I believe she accomplished them all and more. Now we rely on people like Sarah to pass onto others her experience and knowledge."

Last September, Hunter moved another notch closer to her ultimate goal when she entered a protection and control apprenticeship in Vale's power department, working with the same crew for which her grandfather once served as foreman. Protection and control technologists are involved in the installation, maintenance and repair of critical electrical power systems underground.

With a real love of learning and a keen interest in electricity specifically, Hunter said she's reveled in her move into the power distribution side of the profession and is enjoying working with her new crew.

She experienced a poignant moment when, walking down a hallway at work, she came across a photo of her grandfather, Jack Hunter, with his crew from his time in the profession. His name is even still listed in some of the manuals from that time.

"I love being an electrician," she said, "and I love working underground."

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