2016 IW Winners

Tradeswoman of the Year - North Bay

Karin Pratte

Karin Pratte

Karin Pratte may not be who you expect to see on a construction site, but she hopes to eventually witness that change.

In her early days in the mid-2000s as an engineering intern with the City of North Bay, she would inspect construction sites, and found her presence challenged and questioned.

“I was walking around site doing inspections, and one of the contractors went to the construction manager and said ‘Why do you have your secretary walking around site all the time?’” said Karin. “I’ve had guys hit on me, catcall me; it’s a little harder to earn respect but I think it is gradually changing.”

A decade later, having worked her way up to the position of senior environment and facilities engineer, Pratte is at a point where she mentors the engineering interns, many of whom are young women like she once was. She hopes she will encourage other young women join her in engineering.

“Very rarely is there another female at the table,” said Pratte. “I hope I am a role model they can relate too.”

Just a couple of months ago, Pratte presented an iron ring to one of her interns when she graduated, and is pleased to say that she is now working at the City of North Bay as well, making Pratte one of two female engineers at the city.

“I really look forward to continuing to work with interns and summer students, working with young women who are interested in engineering, and giving them a role model who is on the construction site and getting them to feel confident in what they’re doing,” said Pratte.

Pratte herself didn’t always plan on going into engineering, but it seemed a natural fit when she graduated from high school.

“I always loved math and science and my two siblings are the same,” said the North Bay-raised daughter of a mathematician. “So I wasn’t necessarily focused on engineering so much as I knew I liked math and science. But when I was getting to the end of school, I thought ‘What is a good career to get into?’”

So in 2001, Pratte headed to the University of Ottawa to study chemical engineering. She didn’t manage to completely escape, though. She lived in a house with five other girls, all from Northern Ontario. It seemed natural to move back.

“I like the small town feel. I like that we get all the seasons and we can go snowmobiling and skiing, but in the summer you can enjoy the lakes, and outdoors and camping,” said Pratte.

Fortunately, her suspicion that engineering was a good career to get into proved true and she got the city contract when she moved back, working on a new water treatment plant.

“It’s not necessarily what I expected. A lot of the students in chemical engineering are pushed into the oil and gas industry. It’s a common job that you’d have after, but when I was studying, I took all my electives in environmental science and environmental engineering,” said Pratte. “I took one water treatment course, and I really liked it. Doing work on drinking water, I was getting a taste of that environmental analysis.”

Pratte gained more responsibilities over the years after the success of the water treatment plant, which is a sustainable facility, and gained a reputation as a positive and active leader at the city. In 2014, she was promoted to her current role as senior facilities and environment engineer and added environmental services to her portfolio.

Outside of work, Pratte is a mother to a young daughter, and as the first female chair of the North Bay Chapter of Professional Engineers she runs student engagement and education events.

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