Canadian Design and Construction Report staff writer
Female representation in Ontario’s construction industry has reached only 3.8 per cent, according to BuildForce Canada.
With Canada expected to need to recruit 300,000 more workers in the next decade to meet the rising demand for skilled trades workers, closing the gender gap is 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.
A new web portal supports women in trades careers with 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.”
The portal 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.
“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. “(Today) 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.
Support Ontario Youth (SOY) wants to be 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.
“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.”
SOY collaborates with organizations that share the goal to assist and empower women in the trades, including 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.
“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,” says SOY’s program director for construction trades, Glenda Rahn.
Assistance for apprentices can take various forms.
“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.”
Through collaborative the barriers to women entering and achieving success in the skilled trades are weakening, Rahn says. While change may be slow, significant steps are being taken in the right direction.
With the new web portal, 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.