On March 8, we honour the contributions and accomplishments of women throughout history and around the world on International Women’s Day. While we come together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, it is also a call for gender equality – something desperately needed for the future of male-dominated skilled trades.
Female representation in Ontario’s construction industry totals only 3.8%, according to BuildForce Canada. This tremendous gender disparity has a substantial effect on the industry and Canada's economy as a whole. It is anticipated that Canada will need to recruit 300,000 more workers in the next decade to meet the rising demand, a massive task that needs to be met head-on. Women make up only 4.8% of new apprentice registrations, with only 2% completing their training. This indicates not only significant barriers to entry but also hurdles to the completion of apprenticeships.
“Half of the world’s population is female, making half of the labour force female. If we really want to effect change and increase the participation of women in the various sectors of the skilled trades, we need to start creating work environments that are more inclusive,” says Melanie Winter, Program Director for the industrial and motive power trades at Support Ontario Youth.
“It’s important that industry and education partner to show young women what a career path in the trades would look like – representation, positive role models and early exposure to the endless career opportunities for journeypersons are key if we really want to inspire future generations to lead the change necessary to build diverse workforces in each sector. ”
Support Ontario Youth (SOY) is part of the solution - actively seeking to attract and then assist female apprentices throughout their journey, providing mentorship and a range of supports, including the recent introduction of a new section on their website aimed specifically at women in the trades.
New Web Portal Supporting Women in their Trades Journeys
Visit www.supportontarioyouth.ca/women-in-trades, and you will find helpful information speaking directly to females in, or looking to enter, the skilled trades. The page states, “We strongly believe that a range of resources and support can make a significant difference to an apprentice's advancement and retention to help ensure they complete their journey to become a qualified journeyperson.”
This portion of the website also addresses support for employers, showing why female apprentices can be valuable assets, with information on the supports SOY can offer throughout the hiring, training, mentoring and funding process. It also provides a one-of-a-kind networking page, linking various organizations that specialize in promoting, supporting, and funding women’s apprenticeships – providing awareness and access to helpful resources in one central location.
Further Support for Female Apprentices
SOY has been fortunate to collaborate with numerous organizations that share the aim to assist and empower women in the trades. Notable examples include the partnership between SOY, BOLT, and OBCT to create the BOLT Women in Construction Scholarship, as well as the partnership with Saniflo SFA Group for their Apprentice Journey Plumbing Scholarship, that covers the costs of classroom training for a female plumbing apprentice over the five years of their apprenticeship.
SOY’s Program Director for construction trades, Glenda Rahn, understands the importance of these organizations working together to enhance female participation in the skilled trades.
“Partnerships are key – a collaboration with other organizations with common goals provides a holistic approach to enable female apprentices to be prepared for potential roadblocks and to ensure a successful completion of an apprenticeship.”
Assistance for apprentices can take various forms; Glenda elaborates, “Supports such as safety training, job readiness, mentorship and awareness of the culture of the trades, along with a shift of employers’ mindset, can help to provide a rewarding educational experience.”
SOY believes strongly in the power of mentorship and seeks to partner new apprentices with successful women within their chosen trade.
One such mentor with SOY is Brandi Ferenc, a licensed Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems Mechanic and an active and passionate advocate for women in the skilled trades. With over 14 years of experience in the trades, she provides unique insights and mentorship to female apprentices in various trades.
“Mentorship is key for the recruitment and retention of women into the skilled trades. It is a unique experience as a female navigating a male-dominated landscape, and having the support of a mentor can ensure they thrive as opposed to just survive”, explains Brandi.
Through collaborative efforts by various organizations and vocal leaders willing to challenge the status quo, the barriers to women entering and achieving success in the skilled trades are weakening. While change may be slow, significant steps are being taken in the right direction. With this new website, SOY hopes to strengthen that direction for all women who need to understand where to start and what supports are out there to ensure their success within the skilled trades.
Related Topics: Women
This Employment Ontario Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.