How can a young girl who likes playing with Lego find fulfilling work when she grows up? If you ask Lynessa White, she’ll tell you the best way is to follow your instincts. Lynessa, a racialized woman from Downsview, has strong instincts; she defied everyone who ever gave her career advice. Raised in a traditional family, she says despite her desire to fix things and a childhood dream to be a carpenter, her mother made sure she learned to cook. She still fixed things, she did it all the time.
How do women resist such discouragement, whether it’s the guidance department steering you towards a career as a nurse, or your mother telling you to find an office job? Lynessa thought a career in the film industry would be a satisfying compromise so she attended film school in Toronto. The film set didn’t bring her the fulfillment she craved. It wasn’t until she arrived on a construction site that she discovered what was missing.
When Lynessa talks about the construction project she is working on, her joy is palpable. When I first met Lynessa, she was part of the team building the Bentway Skate Trail under the Gardiner Expressway. Every project she works on involves a new approach, a new puzzle to put together, a new problem to solve. Lynessa finds that there isn’t a set way of doing things on a construction site and that’s what drives her.
Through Building Up, a Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) social procurement partner, Lynessa found her path to becoming a licensed carpenter. In addition to Building Up, the process also included Carpenters Union Local 27, and Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, a private contractor. Lynessa is one of TCBN’s greatest success stories.
TCBN envisions Toronto as an inclusive, thriving city in which all residents have equitable opportunities to contribute to healthy communities and a prosperous economy. TCBN is a coalition of organizations and individuals working in direct partnership with other grassroots, community, labour and anti-poverty organizations to build a strong community benefits movement in Toronto. We believe that all Torontonians should have access to the opportunities stemming from infrastructure investments, including women like Lynessa.