In September, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum appointed of one of PCL’s own, PIMI project coordinator Keeley Prockiw, to its board of directors. Now, she shares her experiences as a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community in the trades, her perspective on the industry, and her vision for creating more inclusive working environments for the generations to come.

Keeley Prockiw’s résumé is as diverse as it is decorated. And yet, it’s clear she’s still just getting started.

The project coordinator with PCL Industrial Management (PIMI) has worn many hats and helmets in her career. By day, they typically take the shape of hard hats and welding visors. Prockiw is both a Red Seal journeyman B-pressure welder and a Level 3 rope access supervisor. With the latter, she’s in exclusive company as one of only 25 female rope access technicians in North America.

By night, Prockiw is often found behind a mask and holding down the crease as a ball hockey goaltender. She tends the net for the Edmonton Cherry Pickers in the Women’s Ball Hockey of Edmonton league, while also competing at the national level.

Both of these worlds are undergoing much-needed evolutions in terms of diversity and representation, and Prockiw plays an active role in moving them forward. She does so, in large part, because when all the hats and helmets come off, her primary focus becomes her wife and two kids, for whom she is determined to create a more inclusive future.

“Whether it’s with work or hockey, I know that I am in a place to help with the attraction and retention of underrepresented communities,” Prockiw says. “And I know that this will not only trickle down throughout society, but it will also trickle down to give my children and my children’s children a place of acceptance and a place to work.”

For all the success Prockiw has built and continues to build into her life, her professional journey didn’t begin on quite as promising a note.

Having had her first child at age 19, and a second a few years later, Prockiw struggled throughout her twenties to support her family as a single parent living on minimum wage jobs. Her children quickly became a hugely motivating factor in her life.

“I learned a level of perseverance and strength that only my kids could teach me,” she says. “Before everything else, they are my greatest accomplishment. Today, they’re happy, successful, and I know they appreciate every moment and every experience I went through to get them to where they are.”

In 2011, after years of supporting her family on low-paying retail jobs, Prockiw learned about Women Building Futures and its Journeywoman Start program (now known as the Journey to Trades program).

“I don’t remember how I first heard of WBF, but I do remember that it was the first thing in my life that I was determined to work for until I obtained it,” Prockiw says. “I knew somewhere inside that this was going to be a catalyst of change for me.”

After completing the program, Prockiw committed to becoming a welder. With a path to professional success now laid before her and a fierce resolve to achieve it, she began to navigate the trades apprenticeship system. Soon, the pressures of balancing schooling, parenting, and paying the bills began to mount. She powered through and eventually became a journeyman welder. She had finally landed a job and was able to purchase her first home.

The future was bright, but there was no shortage of hurdles to leap in the years to come. Prockiw has since experienced all the typical ups and downs of the industry — market swings, layoffs and the like — in addition to all the pressures and barriers that come with being a single mother and an LGBTQ+ woman in the trades.

“I could see the barriers and I could see that they were getting me nowhere,” Prockiw says about her time with a previous employer. “I needed more opportunities for growth.”

These experiences helped develop a perseverance and desire for professional growth that Prockiw was eager to bring to PCL, and now also to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s board of directors, to which she was elected in late September. PCL continues to proudly support CAF’s mission as an industry representative on their board of directors, a position most recently occupied by Vancouver-based workforce supervisor Randy Callaghan.

After 10 years in the industry, Prockiw recognizes that change is certainly afoot. She has seen it — and been part of it — firsthand. But she is also quick to note that more change is needed, and that it doesn’t happen overnight.

“Between a generation of trades workers retiring in the coming years and fewer and fewer new apprentices to replace them, this labour shortage is what’s driving change and pushing us forward,” Prockiw says. “Many companies, including PCL, clearly understand the need for change, and although it has taken a long time, diversity, equity and inclusion is becoming more natural now.”

Prockiw applauds PCL’s commitment to being the type of organization to which the underrepresented and marginalized will want to commit. She is especially thankful that PCL puts so much energy into its partnership as an Employer of Choice with Women Building Futures, an organization that she credits with changing her life and to which she still offers so much of her time as a mentor.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Prockiw’s profile has risen significantly in recent years as her passionate advocacy and tireless drive for change have impacted the many communities of which she is a part. In 2020 and 2021, she was named as one of Women’s Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the Skilled Trades. In 2023, she received a Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee Medal for her ongoing efforts with Women Building Futures.

In her new role on the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum board, Prockiw is looking forward to bringing her unique perspective as a single mother who successfully navigated the apprenticeship system to an organization that is driving efforts to address barriers and encourage participation in the trades.

“It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t just handed to me,” Prockiw says. “I took a little bit of time to get through it, but my particular experience gave me a few different tools to get around the struggle that can often hold back single parents or underrepresented communities from continuing their apprenticeship.”

And yet, when the workday has passed and the mentorship and board duties have all been completed, Prockiw is still able to pour so much of her passion into ball hockey and driving that community forward in the same way, both on and off the court. In early August, she won a bronze medal at Canada Ball Hockey’s Women’s A National Championships in Saint John, New Brunswick. A few weeks later, she represented Canada at the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Masters in Buffalo, New York, where her team defeated Team USA to win the gold medal. She was named the women’s MVP goaltender for both tournaments.

“The sport of hockey has given me so much,” Prockiw says. “As I’ve found personal growth in sport, I’ve also found it at work. They go hand in hand. As you succeed in one, you find success in the other.”

Despite the success and acclaim she has earned across these communities, after all these years of battling, Prockiw admits there are times when she feels exhausted from being a trailblazer. She is certainly no less committed to being part of the change; she just hopes more people in the industry will recognize their part in blazing the same trail.

“There are so many stories like mine, so many underrepresented folks that share similar experiences,” Prockiw says. “They need allies and advocates when they can’t speak up or are too tired to keep speaking up.

“They need somebody who can stand for them, and alongside them.”