Red River Métis Roofer's Career Pivot Leads to Passion

Red River Métis Citizen ​​Brianne Pearase received support from the MMF's MET Department to pursue her occupational health and safety training.

​​Brianne Pearase's life took a transformative turn when she decided to pursue her passion for occupational health and safety with the support of the Manitoba Métis Federation's (MMF) Métis Employment and Training (MET) Department. 

During high school, the Red River Métis Citizen was interested in the automotive industry, which helped lead her to where she is today.

"I took power mechanics with the hope that I would end up in the automotive industry, but I found out I had some allergies to solvents and oils, so it wasn't going to be a career path for me anymore," she said.

Pearase met her husband while working in the office of an automotive shop.

"We have two children together," she said. "I was a stay-at-home mom for 17 years, which was wonderful because I was immersed in my children's lives every day. And it was beneficial to them and for me."

"You just have to dig deep and go for it. If you're not happy in what you're doing, you need to shift something, even if it's scary. People have found their way to their passions and are living better lives because of it. We're happy, and that's when we can give back to the community even more because we are ourselves, we are whole. If it seems scary, you probably need to do it." - Brianne Pearase  

With her children all grown up, Pearase decided to re-enter the workforce. She ended up working as a receptionist for a commercial production company, where she learned more about workplace safety. With her interests piqued, the Red River Métis Citizen decided to reach out to the MMF to see what kind of training they could help her access so she could earn a Health and Safety Professional (HSP) designation.

"I met a beautiful, wonderful woman: Gloria, my MET counsellor. We had never met in person. We just talked on the phone all through COVID. We worked together to try and find a program they could help me with," she said. "(Gloria and MET) believed in me."

The MMF's MET Department operates through funds provided by the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Agreement with Canada. The initiative links employment and training programming to current and future labour market demands and ensures that Indigenous people can fully participate in employment and economic opportunities.

While obtaining her HSP, Pearase also accepted a full-time position at Transcona Roofing, a Red River Métis-owned business.

"It's an incredible blessing to work here and have landed here amongst all these people. Rich (Marchetti, president and owner of Transcona Roofing) is an amazing person. He believes in all of us, and I always come back to the quote, 'believe in yourself, believe in Métis.' Rich believes in all of us. He is willing to pour into us if we're going to pour into ourselves," she said. "(My coworkers) are my second family. It's a pleasure to get up and come here every day and work amongst these people. We are encouraged to be striving for further education, further training."

As safety coordinator for the roofing contractor, Pearase's responsibilities include creating safety policies, reviewing procedures, and liaising with contractors. She said her favourite part of the job is outside of the office.

"That's where I'm communicating and building relationships with my crew members. I go out and I do inspections. When I'm out there on the roof climbing ladders, I got my hard hat and work boots on, that's where I enjoy it the most," she said. "You're building relationships with these team members. It's not just about the physical safety. When you build relationships like that, it's also striving for mental wellness too."

Pearase's hard work and dedication was recognized after winning the Construction Safety Award of Merit.

Pearase is one of many Citizens working on the MMF's Red River Métis National Heritage Centre at Portage and Main. Set to open in 2026, the heritage centre will showcase the history of the Red River Métis, highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of the Métis people to the development of our province. The Citizen felt a sense of pride when she first heard that Transcona Roofing would be working on the site.

"I knew I would get to come here, being in the safety position that I'm in. I spend half my time in the office and half in the field. So, I was like 'oh, I get to see the progress of it, not just the roofing part, but everything else that's going on,'" she said. "With all the buildings the MMF has been acquiring lately, it's exciting to be a part of it."

The Red River Métis Citizen's hard work and dedication was recognized after winning the Construction Safety Award of Merit. The award was presented by the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and given to her at the annual Safetys Gala in November 2023. The gala is intended to celebrate individuals and businesses committed to workplace safety in Manitoba. Pearase noted you have to be nominated to receive this award.

"There were two nominations that came in from my colleagues," she said. "I also learned other colleagues inquired and said, 'hey, we should nominate Brianne.' It was heartwarming to know so many people wanted to make sure I was recognized, and people were willing to take the time to write those nominations."

In honour of her accomplishments, Pearase's daughter surprised her with a gift before the award ceremony.

"When my daughter learned I was going to be the recipient, she made me a ribbon skirt specifically for this event," she said. "Being able to have my name called and walk across to receive this award in my ribbon skirt as a proud Métis woman was exhilarating."

Aside from the award, Pearase is honoured to go to work every day and do what she loves.

"I care about our crews (that) are out in the field. I want them to go home safely to their loved ones. It's kind of the mom in me, and I think that's why I love this job so much is because I care so much about everybody, and I'm able to make a difference in their lives and make sure they work here in a healthy environment and stay healthy and safe, so it's rewarding," she said.

Pearase attended the 2023 Winnipeg Region drive-by grad. Left to right: Minister David Beaudin, Winnipeg Region Executive; Pearase; Minister Andrew Carrier, Winnipeg Region Vice-President; and Minister JoAnne Remillard, Winnipeg Region Executive.

Pearase knows a career change later in life can be a daunting experience and offered advice to those considering making the change.

"You just have to dig deep and go for it," she said. "If you're not happy in what you're doing, you need to shift something, even if it's scary. People have found their way to their passions and are living better lives because of it. We're happy, and that's when we can give back to the community even more because we are ourselves, we are whole. If it seems scary, you probably need to do it."

For Pearase, being proud of her Red River Métis heritage means learning more about her culture, including attending the recent Infinity Women Secretariat wellness weekend.

"I like staying connected with my Red River Métis, and learning about these things is all about community. I'm thankful that our Red River Métis Government shares a lot of information through social media, emails, and through Le Metis," she said.

The Citizen remains connected to her community by engaging with prominent Red River Métis individuals through social media.

"Following other Métis entrepreneurs is a great way (to build community), because they're sharing their experiences on their social media platforms," she said. "After all, we are allowed to be proud, we are allowed to use our voices to share these shining moments that we have, our accomplishments, and what we're learning."

Pearase graduated in 2023 at the age of 43, proving that you can pursue post-secondary education at any age.

"Being recognized was huge. I got all dolled up. I didn't have a grad dress, but I had my ribbon skirt, and I think that was better," she said. "We pulled up and saw all those faces from our Métis community. Celebrating myself and all the other grads was quite overwhelming."

Originally published in Le Métis - June 19, 2024


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