Tradespeople keep Canada running – from the electrical panels in every office building to new construction builds with cranes dotting the horizon. But as the workforce ages, the push is on to attract women to trades jobs traditionally filled by men, and that push comes from the top. With the Canadian government’s Apprentice Incentive Grant for Women, the government is ensuring the trades are sufficiently supported with Red Seal-certified tradespeople for decades to come.

What is the Red Seal?

The trades are blue-collar jobs including everything from motorcycle mechanics and chefs right through to industrial electricians. The Red Seal Trade Certification program began over a half-century ago, and today offers accreditation in 55 different trades. It’s essentially a standardization program so tradespeople across Canada deliver the same high-quality services.

For electricians, as an example, step one in the career is to become apprentice, then getting a journeyperson ticket, issued in the province where training is completed. Next up is Red Seal Certification.

Red Seal Certification proves a tradesperson knows how to meet approved standards anywhere in Canada. It also means being able to train apprentices and can come with a higher salary. It gives trades workers the opportunity to take jobs anywhere in Canada, including high-paying remote jobs.

And don’t get hung up on choosing which trade to get certified in, if there’s more than one Red Seal option for you. Electricians in Canada, for instance, can get Red Seal Certification as either a construction electrician or an industrial electrician – or both!

What is the Apprentice Incentive Grant?

Before becoming Red Seal Certified, electricians and other tradespeople start as apprentices. For women looking at careers in a Red Seal trade, the Canadian government’s grant program means qualifying women doing their apprenticeship can receive up to $8,000. It breaks down as being up to $3,000 in grants per year or level, for a maximum of $6,000, plus the Apprenticeship Completion Grant, valued at $2,000, for when they get their journey ticket.

But one reason people love trades is because they earn while they learn. They get taught in classes, but they also learn on job sites while getting a living wage. The more they work, the higher their earnings go. Apprentices usually graduate debt-free without any grants.

These incentive grants are for women, though, because they’re underrepresented in trades. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, one in five Canadians work in skilled trades. Women, they report, comprise 9 percent of Red Seal trades – but remove traditional female jobs of bakers, hairstylists, and cooks, and that number falls to just 5 percent.

The Future is Equal

Old stereotypes long kept women from entering the trades, but times are changing and there are many reasons women should embark on a Red Seal-certified future.

For starters, union-backed trades have pay parity – do the same work and get paid the same, whatever your gender, skin colour, age, or sexuality. Trades jobs can be high-pressure, with critical deadlines on major projects with budgets into the millions of dollars. Being a competent trades worker who gets the job done means being respected on the job – no matter what your gender is.

The Apprentice and the Veteran

Encouraged by her stepfather to get a trade, 24-year-old Wakkenniosta Cooper knows what it’s like as the only female apprentice on a jobsite. While she looks forward to more women at work, she’s also loves being one of the boys. “It’s comfortable,” she says. “I don’t have to worry about appearances, and I feel like they’re like older brothers.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Red Seal Certified in two trades, 59-year-old Kelly Kienleitner is an instructor at the Electrical Joint Training Committee, where she loves helping new apprentices coming into their own. As Canada’s first-ever Red Seal-Certified female motorwinder, she knows how far the trades have come, with training safer than ever and women growing in the ranks. While they may still be underrepresented on job sites, Kienleitner states that nearly one in five of union’s apprentices are female.**

She’s constantly advocating for their female apprentices, too, because, she says, “Women bring skill to the table that men don’t usually have — multitasking and attention to detail.”

What Are You Waiting For?

For women of any age who are looking at a career in the electrical trades, the Apprentice Incentive Grant for Women may mean money in their pockets for making a great career move. Kienleitner says their EJTC program costs each apprentice about $6,700, but they’ll earn $5,800 in wages, leaving costs at under $1,000, which can be further offset with those Incentive and Completion grants totaling up to $8,000.

People commonly change careers, particularly from white-collar jobs to blue-collar trades work, but tradespeople like Kienleitner and Cooper will tell you their greatest regret was not starting earlier. They’re envious of high school students getting an early start in the industry, who will be earning over $80,000 a year by the time they hit 23, while their peers are facing potentially decades of paying off student loans.

If you’re seeking to start a career debt-free, in an industry with a bright future and a shortage of skilled help, apply for your apprenticeship in the electrical trades today.