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Women in Plumbing: Meet Lesley McGlenen, Owner of Pipe Wench Plumbing & Heating Ltd.


Lesley McGlenen is the owner and operator of Pipe Wench Plumbing & Heating, a plumbing company in British Columbia, Canada. Get to know her story and how she started her career in plumbing.  

Follow Lesley’s journey on Instagram at @thepipewench

1. How did you first get started in plumbing? 

I first got into plumbing while working for my dad's development company in 2005. The plumber on site offered me a job when we were between developments. I started with them at age 21, and within my first few weeks, the apprenticeship board came around the site and signed me up for the program.  

Read More: A Plumber’s Advice for Plumbing Apprentices & Those Who Train Them 

I got a lot of experience as a young apprentice since we were a small company of three to four plumbers on sites of 70 or more units. We worked primarily on condo or commercial development and commercial space tenant improvements.

2. What helped you the most early in your plumbing career? 

Most of the time, I was the only apprentice at this company, so I got to work under three skilled journeymen who did different parts of the job. Depending on who I was working under, I learned different techniques. I also had to learn fast since it was a very fast-paced environment working with site deadlines.  

For instance, in Alberta, where I did my training, you have to complete a four-year apprenticeship program with eight weeks of in-school learning plus a required amount of on-the-job training hours each year to move up in the apprenticeship until you graduate with your red seal journeyman ticket. After you earn it, you can open your own and operate a licensed plumbing business.  

One of the journeymen told me early on to sign up every year for the school portion — and never postpone. Life will always have its ups and downs, but once you complete the schooling part and get your ticket, no one can take it away from you. That was a very valuable lesson, as each year you complete it, you are put at a higher pay scale. You may or may not be guaranteed pay the longer you postpone or if you move companies.


3. What advice would you give other women who are interested in or starting their careers in plumbing? 

Give it a try, and even if you find it’s not for you, you may find another trade that is. I started out as a laborer and then got into plumbing. At one point during my plumbing apprenticeship, I had to take a lay off, then I got a job at a cabinet company shop. I learned a lot of skills that I can now apply to my plumbing career, but I learned that cabinetry and working in a shop was not for me. 

4. What resources do you recommend that support women in the trades? 

Always reach out in your community. Connect with your local trades college — they most likely have resources and support to offer. And, of course, social media. There are many accounts that I have connected with by just sending a message asking a question.

Not only have I gained a friend this way, but also a person who is in the trades who can relate, on the same level, to issues that arise in the workplace. We also help each other troubleshoot and diagnose problems that arise. 

5. What do you think the industry could do to better attract and retain women in the trades? 

In the past few years, I have felt that there are way more opportunities for women out there than when I was in my apprenticeship.  

Recently, I've started a golf tournament, the Babes GDGT, which raises funds for women in trades programs locally. Hosting events not geared toward trades communities is a great way to bring awareness around women in the trades while also raising funds for women already in trades programs.  

It’s a great way to showcase women empowering women. It also opens doors to women who may have never even thought about getting into the trades while doing something they enjoy. 

6. What keeps you inspired at work day-to-day? 

My community, both online and the one I live in. Family is very important to me.

Families gather in their homes around holidays and on summer vacations. When something goes wrong with their plumbing or heating, it brings me joy to know that when I fix something in an emergency, it will not interrupt their valuable time spent with family and friends. I get to be part of rebuilding a home where future generations will gather. 

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