Now more than ever, the skilled trades industry is encouraging women to pursue careers in the skilled trades. However, the traditional stereotype of trades being only for men is discouraging the majority of women in Canada from getting involved in the trades.
“Being successful means working smarter rather than harder,” says Caroline Lambrechts, a site service technician at StairWorld. “The biggest barrier is the mental barrier.”
With a growing shortage of skilled trades workers in Canada, the shrinking numbers are being largely attributed to the gender imbalance that exists among skilled trades professionals. For this reason, colleges and government agencies across the country are developing initiatives to encourage more women to pursue jobs in the skilled trades.
“Women have been in the trades for a long time,” says Caroline, “but are only now becoming more visible, recognized, and thankfully, accepted.”
The government of Ontario is another major supporter of increasing the number of women in the skilled trades industry. According to the latest statistics, approximately 19 percent of apprentices are women, which indicates the number of women pursuing apprenticeships is increasing. To encourage more women to follow suit, the Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology Training Program was designed in early 2014 for low-income women who are unemployed or underemployed. Funded by Ontario Women’s Directorate, this grant program provides gender-sensitive training both in the classroom and on the job for women who wish to be employed in the skilled trades. In specific, the grant program can be broken down into two streams:
- Skilled Trades: This stream allows for women to benefit from pre-apprenticeship training; upon graduation, participants will become qualified to enter the skilled trades industry and pursue apprenticeship programs in the field.
- Information Technology (IT): This stream allows for women to receive the preparation and training to enter the IT sector; upon graduation, participants will become qualified to obtain well-paying IT jobs and apprenticeships.
In addition, non-for-profit organizations such as Women Building Future (WBF) is an excellent example of how the skilled trades industry is encouraging women to become active members of the industry. The mission of WBF is to ensure the “economic prosperity for women through assessment, training, job placement, and job retention support.” Established in 1998, WBF has been supporting women who wish to enter the skilled trades industry for over a decade. WBF is also experienced in recruiting women into the industrial workforce, with a proven employment record of 90 percent. As a Social Purpose Organization (SPO) and registered charity, WBF is dedicated to helping women prepare for careers in the skilled trades, with particular attention given to those interested in working in construction. Moreover, WBF helps companies in the skilled trades industry understand that women are viable sources of skilled workers for the construction sector. At the same time, WBF is educating women on how to enter and pursue employment in the skilled trades industry.
Due to the contributions of the Ontario government and organizations like Women Building Futures, skilled trades women are gaining the recognition they deserve as valuable contributors in the industry. More importantly, these organizations are helping to drastically change the landscape for women in the skilled trades industry by closing the existing gender gap.