Robyn Garlow, apprentice ironworkerRobyn Garlow, apprentice ironworker

Six Nations of the Grand River, ON

Robyn Garlow

Growing up with an ironworker father, Robyn Garlow got a good taste of what life was like in the ironworking trade. Tagging along to different cities where he’d work, and hearing the stories of the rest of her ironworking cousins, it’s no wonder that Robyn, a member of Six Nations of the Grand River, is now a first-year ironworking apprentice.

“I could never really picture myself sitting behind a desk or anything like that … I always thought (ironworking would) be a neat job, just being up in the air,” she says. “It’s serious, you get the work done, but there’s a lot of fun that goes with it,” she adds. The camaraderie among ironworkers is nothing new to Robyn, who’s often watched her father meet up with old friends on work sites.

As a young female Aboriginal ironworker, Robyn is a minority in her trade but says that working with the men on the site is no more difficult for her than for any other worker. “I thought maybe they’d judge me for being a woman, but not really. I’m not treated differently from any other apprentice. You just get your orders and you follow them,” she explains.

While she hasn’t had the chance to work on many sites yet, Robyn is looking forward to everything the trade has to offer. Her father was afraid it might be difficult for her to raise a family and be an ironworker, because of all the travel. But seeing him raise two kids on his own and make it in the trade gives Robyn the confidence to know that she can do it too.

“Overall he’s kind of proud that I’m an ironworker like him,” she says. Like most ironworkers, Robyn feels the pride of accomplishment, but also thinks that her pride comes from tradition and the legacy of Native ironworkers. “I think it’s in our heritage to be ironworkers. That’s all it used to be a long time ago, just Natives up there walking the steel and doing it all,” she reflects. There’s also the sense of personal accomplishment that comes with the job. “I’m doing something many people wouldn’t be able to do.”