As retirement rates rise in the trades sector, the construction industry is in desperate need of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. Currently, women represent only 4% of Canada’s construction industry, and that needs to change.

Progress has been made in recruiting and retaining women in the workforce, and at the same time, we acknowledge that we still have a long way to go. So, what are some of the barriers that either prevent or deter women from entering the workforce?

According to the Government of Canada, “Women face barriers to entering the trades, largely due to a lack of mentors, difficulty finding an employer, discrimination and family obligations.”

What are ways we can dismantle these barriers and encourage women to enter and stay in the skilled trades? Fortunately, there are various supports and resources for women who are trying to make their way into the skilled trade sector. Here are some of the promising pilot programs that are making a difference for the talented women who are helping to bend the curve in the trade sector.

EJTC + Related Supports for Women

The Electrical Joint Training Committee (EJTC), currently sitting at 12 percent of women in their apprenticeship pool, is working towards a goal of 20 percent women in their apprenticeship program in the near future. The EJTC is allied with the IBEW 213 Women’s Committee, the BC Centre for Women in the Trades, and other tradeswomen’s organizations. EJTC recognizes that women face special challenges in the trades. They support efforts by unions and employers to make the workplace welcoming and respectful so that women will want to stay on the job.

BC Center For Women in the Trades

BC Center For Women in the Trades (BCCWITT) is a strong supporter of women entering these occupations. BCCWITT provides networking, funding, resources, and supports for women entering and currently working in the trades across BC. They offer programs that encourage an inclusive atmosphere for a diverse workforce. With their innovative program, Be More Than A Bystander engages men to take ownership and play an active role in ending gender-based bullying, harassment, and violence.

Apprenticeship Incentive Grant

The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women, funded by the federal government, is a great resource for women who have started their apprenticeship yet need funding support. This grant provides $3,000 per year or level of technical training, up to a maximum of $6,000 to registered apprentices who have successfully completed their first or second year/level of an apprenticeship program in eligible Red Seal Trades.

Mentorship for Women

Mentorship Matters supports women in the trades by encouraging, teaching, and creating positive, inclusive mentorships in a safe environment throughout one’s apprenticeship, sometimes creating lifelong relationships and allies.

Youth Explore Program with ITA

The Industry Training Authority (ITA) program – Youth Explore Skilled Trades is a great way to build interest in the trade sector for young females. This program uses hands-on learning to acquire skills in the construction trades, automotive industry, culinary arts and baking, and the manufacturing sector. This resource helps students build confidence, knowledge, and entrepreneurial skills in the trades, and is designed for students from grades 10-12. This resource is free of charge by JABC (Junior Achievement of BC).

Fortunately, if you are a woman working in the trades or a woman interested in entering the trades, there are some supports, and the number of resources continues to grow. The trade sector has not yet achieved full inclusion and diversity quite yet although, there are hopeful signs that they are moving on the right path.

Written by: Savannah Davis, ClearWater Communications Co.