Meet Lee Ann Andrews: Boilermaker

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Female Boilermaker, Lee Ann Andrews was Northlink College’s first, qualified, female boilermaker.

“I am a woman before I’m a Boilermaker. I am a woman before all things.
I’m not a hero, but I want to be a she-ro!”

Lee Ann grew up in Mitchell’s Plain in a gangster-infested community surrounded by drugs, poverty and teenage pregnancy. She is one of six children to separated parents who were poor but never let the children go to bed without food. Her childhood motivated her to rise above her circumstances, and, from as early as 15 she developed a fascination for steel and its many applications.

After attending Tafelsig High, Lee-Anne furthered her studies at Northlink TVET College where she graduated with 17 subject distinctions.

With lots of support from her lecturers, she worked tirelessly to pass all her subjects on every level. In the end, she completed all 21 subjects required for the boilermaking qualification – most with distinctions!
This is truly amazing … and that’s not all. This multi-tasking, young lady, also found the time to head the student representative council. Exhibiting astute leadership, she and her team negotiated many critical changes at Northlink College to the advantage of fellow students.

Lee Ann professes, ‘All praise to Mr Winston Petersen who sometimes assumed a fatherly role in my life. Guiding and teaching me to observe the beautiful things that will make for success and supporting me when things were rough and life looked a bit hazy’.

Without hesitation, Mr Petersen recommended her to Damen Shipping – where she enrolled as apprentice boilermaker – set to make her mark in the industry. Being in a male-dominated trade, Lee-Anne felt the need to work twice as hard to prove herself. She was committed and never gave up.

“The big moments in our lives are made up by the little choices we make. I didn’t make a decision to be brought into this world but I did make a decision not to be overwhelmed by my circumstances. I chose to be different, to be extraordinary and to be better.”

This industrious, hardworking lady excelled in all her challenges. Lee Ann completed all the requirements to qualify for a trade test in boilermaking and in May 2013 she attended the Northlink College accredited trade test centre in order to prepare. A day before her trade test she celebrated her twenty-first birthday and a few days later she celebrated the fact that she was declared competent in all trade test levels.

When Lee-Anne gave birth to her beloved son, Remondo, she knew that being a young mom meant even more responsibility,  but she made the choice to carry on building her career.

My son Remondo is my motivation, my inspiration, my smile keeper. He is the main reason I
I get up every morning and work hard. I feel I can’t give up. I need to be his role model.

Lee-Anne is now in the education sector, teaching her trade at False Bay College to a new generation of future artisans determined to succeed. We asked her if she would encourage more girls to follow a career as an artisan, and her answer was: “Yes, definitely. It is a fantastic life and you will be surprised by what those hands can do.”

We had a few questions for Lee-Anne:

CP: What were your interests in your early teen years?
LA: Early teen years modeling was my interest I thought of becoming a model one day. I was inspired by Naomi Campbell.

CP: When did you decide to become a boilermaker?
LA: I was around 15 years when I made the decision. I used to watch TV programs about steel and was fascinated by how it was molded and shaped.

CP: How were you treated by your male colleagues?
LA: Many of them underestimated my capability and that often used make me feel that I needed to prove myself. Men have this myth believing that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I beg to differ and I always prove them wrong!

CP: Would you encourage more women to become artisans…and why?
LA: I disagree with gender stereotypes. Yes, men tend to be stronger but women are wiser. With modern technology these days we don’t work hard. Instead, we work smart!
However physically it can be exhausting but if you love what you doing it becomes your passion.

CP: Do engineering artisans earn good money?
LA: My favorite saying is that’s there no elevator to success, you need to take the stairs. It takes hard work and determination to succeed and, YES, we definitely do earn good money!

“To all females that wish to embark on the path of becoming boilermakers, nothing is impossible. If I can do it, then you can do it too. Be the best in this male-dominated field and show the men how it should be done.”  -Lee Ann Andrews.

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