Carpenters championing gender equality in construction

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CaDCR staff writer

The Carpenters’ Regional Council (CRC) is expanding the Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA) into the Prairies region. The move, supported by CRC’s investment, aims to foster inclusivity and diversity within the industry.

“Ensuring careers in the skilled trades are more accessible for women is a priority to help make our industry more inclusive and to address Canada’s labour shortage,” said Jason Rowe, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Carpenters’ Regional Council. “Complementing our initiatives like Sisters in the Brotherhood, our investment in OAWA is another way we are providing leadership to attract and retain more women in the trades.”

The announcement came about two months after the grand opening of OAWA Alberta’s Edmonton office was celebrated on International Women’s Day on March 8.

“We’re focused on educating women about the incredible career opportunities available to them in the skilled construction trades and creating pathways for them to succeed,” said Emma Pollard, Project Director for OAWA Alberta. “Working in collaboration with our industry partners, we are committed to enhancing a worksite culture that supports women in a male dominated industry.”

Carpenters Local 579 first established OAWA in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009. Based on the success of that model, OAWA offices have since opened in mainland Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Cape Breton, the Prairies region servicing Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and now Alberta (opened September 2023).

To date, OAWA has assisted with more than 2,000 employment opportunities and has provided job-related supports to more than 4,000 women across Canada.CRC received $2.354 million from the Government of Canada under the Canadian Apprenticeship Strategy Women in Skilled Trades Initiative for the Alberta OAWA project.

“We’re focused on educating women about the incredible career opportunities available to them in the skilled construction trades and creating pathways for them to succeed,” affirmed Emma Pollard, Project Director for OAWA. “Working in collaboration with our industry partners, we are committed to enhancing a worksite culture that supports women in male-dominated industries.”

OAWA’s commitment to inclusivity spans both union and non-union sectors. It offers tailored services such as resume building, interview preparation, and networking events, acknowledging the unique challenges women may face in male-dominated industries and equipping them with essential tools for success.

Partnerships create opportunities for tradeswomen and cultivating a supportive environment within the construction sector. By facilitating connections between tradeswomen and employers, OAWA not only assists individuals in finding employment but also promotes a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Since its inception in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009, OAWA has expanded its footprint across Canada, providing assistance for over 2,000 employment opportunities and supporting more than 4,000 women. However, women remain underrepresented in the skilled construction trades, highlighting the ongoing need for initiatives like OAWA.

The CRC’s unwavering dedication to foster an inclusive and diverse workforce is demonstrated not only through OAWA, but in addition to other initiatives such as the Sisters in the Brotherhood Women’s Employment Readiness program.

As OAWA continues to expand its reach and impact, supported by the Carpenters’ Regional Council, it will continue to make strides towards a more inclusive and equitable future in the skilled trades.

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