“A diverse workforce is a huge benefit for everyone involved, and with the trades, you can earn while you learn.”

When you think of a typical tradesperson, you’re likely to picture a man with a hard hat and work boots. You’d be right. Figures suggest that less than 10 percent of Canadian women work in the skilled trades. But times are changing. Despite women still being underrepresented in trades’ professions, there are some positive trends.

“The trades have changed dramatically over the past 10 years,” says JudyLynn Archer, President & CEO of Women Building Futures (WBF), a leader in trades training for women in Alberta. “Most women don’t wake up in the morning and say I’d like to be a boilermaker, but we need to help women understand that the trades offer fantastic careers. It’s being recognized that these aren’t just your typical blue collar jobs, but highly technical careers that offer a lot of opportunity for women.”

JudyLynn Archer
President & CEO, Women Building Futures 720

Opportunity through the growing labour shortage

Industry, too is taking notice, given that there is a significant and growing shortage of skilled trades people, because of retirement and global competition for these professionals.

 

Offering a great lifestyle and career, WBF wants to position the trades as a first choice for women, and has a goal of increasing the number of women entering the trades by 300 percent. “We want to see 1,800 women annually entering the trades,” says Archer. “Our awareness campaigns and programs can help achieve that goal.”

Recruiting the right people into the right program for the right employer is important. That’s why rigorous assessment is a cornerstone of success for WBF. “When a woman says this is for me I want to get into the trades, we offer training programs that industry want, so students are ready to be safe and productive the first day on the job,” says Archer. “We consistently see a 90 percent hire rate for our graduates.”

Archer adds that a diverse workforce is a huge benefit for everyone involved, and with the trades, you can earn while you learn. Students can complete their apprenticeship with little or no debt.

Christianne Hall
Welding Instructor,
Ironworkers 720 720

Overcoming stereotypes

Christianne Hall, a welder in Alberta for nearly 20 years is one of those women that found a great career in the trades. Now a welding instructor, Hall overcame some of the negative stereotypes by working hard and proving herself. “I built up my skills as a welder and got good at it,” she says. “I showed the guys I was working with that I could do it.” Halls finds satisfaction in helping others achieve success in their trade skills, and her advice for women considering the trades is to learn your skills well and trust in your abilities.

With more women entering the trades, the face of the industry is transforming in a very positive way. It’s also positive for those women who are enjoying satisfying and well-paying careers. “It’s very inspiring for us to see these women succeed in an area that previously they might not have thought possible,” says Archer. “Employers are now coming to our training centre to interview our students and make hiring decisions, something that didn’t happen a decade ago.”