Meet Haley O’Leary, a Journeyman Ironworker for JP Cullen. She has been with JP Cullen both during her apprenticeship, and since September of 2022 has been a Journeyman. Haley is a part of Ironworkers Local 498, and is first female within her union to have FCAW certification (Flux Core Welding or Wire). We sat down with Haley to learn more about her career as an ironworker.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I don’t know if I can pick just one favorite thing, I love my job! My coworkers are awesome and fun to work with, and I’m always meeting new, interesting people. I get to enjoy being outside all day when the weather is nice. There are so many different aspects of ironwork, every day I learn something new and continue to grow in my career. Not to mention the views— there’s nothing like starting your day watching the sun rise from the top of a building!
What sparked your interest in the construction industry, specifically the trades?
Growing up I was always pretty creative and loved working with my hands. When I got to high school and started thinking about a career, I knew I wanted to something hands-on, but I wasn’t sure what. I went to a college prep school, so the trades weren’t talked about or encouraged at all. My dad was actually the one who steered me towards the trades. He’s a garbage truck/snowplow driver for the City of Chicago and has made an excellent living without going to college. Seeing how proud he is of his job and how well he was able to provide for me as a single father made me want to create that kind of life for myself.
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement is becoming a journeyman! I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life, and some days it really wasn’t easy. Being a female in a predominantly male, I always fought to prove myself and show others that I don’t just have a job, but I deserve my job and I belong here. It is the greatest feeling in the world looking back at all the times I’ve struggled and wanted to quit, knowing that it was all worth it to get to where I am today.
What are your top highlights of your life?
In chronological order, first one is the call I got that I was accepted into Ironworkers Local 498 apprenticeship. I knew in that moment, my life was going to change forever. I quit my retail job on the spot and never looked back.
Second is when I bought my house. That was when I realized, at 23 years old I had made it further in life than I had ever imagined possible. All my hard work had paid off and I was living the life I had dreamed of years prior.
Third is when I adopted my dog, Beans. He is the highlight of my life, my best friend. (We agree Haley, he’s pretty darn cute!)
What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory is my 21st birthday! My dad and uncle took me to Wisconsin Dells, and we had the best time ever!
What is something that no one (At JP Cullen) knows about you?
Before I started looking into the trades, I had originally attended college, studying to be a mortician.