Pastry chef turned steamfitter pipefitter, Sabrina O’Brien is a winner of the Canadian national award for women in the trades.

Mother of four, former pastry chef and now national award winner Sabrina O’Brien is the first steamfitter-pipefitter to win the Women in the Trades Journeyman award from the Alberta Council of Turnaround Industry Maintenance Stakeholders.

Originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Sabrina now works with PCL Melloy in the Edmonton area in Alberta. Her co-workers aren’t surprised she won this award. They say that she’s a great team player, is trusted by her peers and can get an entire crew to work together to make a safe and successful project happen. As a true mentor to younger workers and someone who encourages other women to pursue careers in the trades, she’s positively shaping the future of the industry. 

Pursuing a career as a pastry chef right after high school, Sabrina completed the pastry arts program at Holland College’s Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She was a chef for a couple of years before realizing the lifestyle wasn’t for her. With weekends and holidays being the busiest times in the hotel and restaurant industry, Sabrina couldn’t always make it home for Christmas and knew she needed a change.

A few of her cousins were pipefitters, so she talked to them about the trade, figured it could be a good fit and enrolled in Nova Scotia Community College's steamfitting/pipefitting program. Now, with 11 years as a pipefitter under her belt, Sabrina still loves the fact that her current career demands problem-solving, mathematics and working outside, far from a desk. And though the days may be long, Sabrina’s glad that working in construction she can make it home for the holidays. 

Sabrina wasn’t aware of the award until Melloy superintendent Kris Kucher suggested that she apply for it. After some research, Sabrina put together the essay and asked Kris to write the recommendation letter needed for the application. She was surprised to hear that she had won since it was her first time entering and she had no idea who else had applied for the award — nor exactly what Kris wrote about her in the recommendation, though she assumes that enough of it must have been good.

The award recognizes Canadian women in the trades who are members of Canadian Building Trades and bring awareness to the opportunities for women within trade careers. In their essay, applicants must demonstrate that they show integrity within their industry, leadership in the workforce and excellence in their trade and that they practice workplace safety.