Shannon Ball: A Career Shift
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023
NWP Toolroom Attendant Shannon Ball
Shannon Ball knows the importance of careful selection. It’s something she’s learned over time.
While employed as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer in Calgary, Shannon was placed on light duties after she sustained a foot injury at work. Although she didn’t know it just then, the temporary move to the tool room would eventually prove to be a key component of her long-term success.
“I really enjoyed organizing the tools, making them easily accessible, and helping others find what they needed,” explained Shannon.
A quick learner, Shannon has always had a variety of interests that have steered her in various directions. She gained professional experience as a parts delivery person and in a mechanic shop and then went on to be an optician. It was during her time working in a mechanic shop where she had one of her “aha” moments.
“It drove me crazy that vehicles don’t always have to be fixed in a certain way. I wanted a job where rules and regulations were followed, where things were fixed properly, and where I could continue to work with my hands.” She also recognized that it was a priority of hers to get back into a mechanical job, instead of a customer service job.
This realization led Shannon to pursue a two-year program in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering through a collaborative program between Okanagan College and Northern Lakes College. She embarked on this educational journey in her late twenties, knowing that it would open doors to a whole new world of opportunities.
Shannon's dedication and hard work paid off. After completing her program, Shannon moved to Calgary and began working in the aviation industry.
It was during this time that she met her husband, and their lives took an unexpected turn. They found themselves relocating to the small town of Fairview in rural northern Alberta, where Northwestern Polytechnic’s Fairview campus is located.
With the nearest airport over an hour away, Shannon knew that working as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer was out of the question. It was yet another cue that a different career may be a better fit. At the same time, NWP was looking to hire an Assistant for the Associate Registrar combined with the position of Registration Assistant. But in 2013, another fork in her career path popped up when her position at NWP was dissolved.
Resilient and resourceful, Shannon was undeterred, landing another hands-on job. “I ended up taking a job as a Parts Technician at Campell Chrysler,” she said.
Campbell Chrysler supported her to enroll as an apprentice Parts Technician. However, before starting her first year of training, a position opened at NWP as a Toolroom Attendant. It was finally the perfect opportunity with just a few challenges to overcome. NWP allowed Shannon to complete all 3 years of the apprenticeship training by giving her the time off with pay to attend school.
“I was in my late 30s when I went back to school again. It was more difficult, as I felt like I didn’t learn as quickly as I used to,” Shannon explained. “I was motivated to do a really good job since my teachers were also my coworkers. I would go from class in the morning to a staff meeting later in the day.”
It paid off. Shannon has now been in the role for 10 years and navigated many changes at NWP including the evolution of tools, technology, industries, and programming. There is one thing that has remained constant - Shannon's dedication to her job and her genuine care for the students. She takes great pride in providing them with the tools they need to succeed, ensuring that they are always prepared and ready to learn.
“I have watched students as they enter as hesitant first-year students and seen their confidence and knowledge flourish as they progress through their apprenticeships. It is a joy to be part of their journey and to witness their development firsthand.”
As a Toolroom Attendant, Shannon's day-to-day responsibilities include managing the inventory, maintaining tools, and assisting students in selecting the appropriate tools for their work. She ensures that the tool room is always well-stocked, allowing the students to focus on their projects.
Shannon is also actively involved in her union. Five-years ago, she took on the role of chair, advocating for the rights and well-being of her fellow employees. Her leadership and commitment to the union have been instrumental in ensuring that the voices of the staff are heard and respected.
Reflecting on her time at Northwestern Polytechnic, Shannon considers it “the best job she has ever had.” The camaraderie among her coworkers, the shared coffee breaks, and the support they provide each other make her feel like part of a close-knit family. “It is the people I work with that make my job truly exceptional.”
Shannon's journey to Northwestern Polytechnic wasn't what she had initially envisioned for her life. But looking back, she wouldn't change a thing. Her ability to adapt, her dedication to doing her job well, and her unwavering commitment to excellence have made her an invaluable member of the NWP community.
As Shannon continues to make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues, her story reminds us that sometimes the unexpected paths we choose in life lead us to the most fulfilling destinations.