The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) says it has secured $100,000 that will help advance women in the skilled trades.
The funding from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will be spent on creating more “equitable opportunities” for traditionally marginalized individuals, according to a joint press release.
“Skilled tradespeople have always played a crucial role in Canada’s economy,” said Andrea Barrack, RBC’s senior vice president of corporate citizenship. “Women can play a large role in addressing both the talent shortage as well as elevating themselves into more senior leadership roles.”
According to Statistics Canada, women represented just 7% of trade workers in the country last year.
The situation in the U.S. is improving, with the number of female apprentices doubling from 2014 through 2022, according to the Department of Labor which said women account for nearly 14% of active apprenticeships as of last year.
Tiffany Silva, owner of Accurate Auto Body in Richmond, California, spoke during a recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC) session focused on the Collision Engineering Program (CEP) about how she’s witnessing more female students entering the traditionally male-dominated industry.
She said she now has eight women, and 10 people under the age of 25, working at her facility.
Amber Alley, general manager of Barsotti’s Body and Fender in California, said it’s important to create an open dialogue with employees to create a more positive and welcoming workplace culture.
“I think that [is] really important when dealing with the newer generation in the workforce and creating an atmosphere for young women to want to enter in on the shop floor,” Alley said. “I’ve been 30 years in a management position of some capacity in the industry and I’ve never employed a woman technician. That’s a problem and I want to change that.”
The upswing in U.S. women enrolling in the trades is being felt at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC), where women today represent one-third of skilled trades enrollment, according to the Quad City Times.
“I think it’s just becoming a lot more acceptable to see women in a male-dominated field,” Megan Edens, who co-leads EICC’s manufacturing and skilled trades programs, told the outlet.
As a welder, Edens said she personally has witnessed perceptions change after demonstrating her skills.
“I’ve had a lot of people question my knowledge or my skill set for being female,” she said. “A lot of times, when I’ve been able to prove what I can do, that respect comes back.”
On a leadership level, the TechForce Foundation announced this week that Jennifer Bergeron, who has more than 20 years of experience in technical education and organizational management, has been appointed its first chief growth officer. She previously spent 13 years serving as the NASCAR Technical Institute’s Mooresville, North Carolina president.
“As Chief Growth Officer, Jennifer Bergeron will work with TechForce staff and our Board of Directors to develop and implement strategies that will catapult the organization to new heights,” said Jennifer Maher, executive director of TechForce Foundation. “Jennifer Bergeron brings a wealth of knowledge, is very committed to and passionate about TechForce’s work to support the next generation of technicians, and is excited about helping this mission and nonprofit thrive.”
CAF said its work with RBC will give a boost to its National Leadership Program for Women in the Skilled Trades program, which is free for Canadian women and gender-diverse individuals.
“The goal of this program and other future CAF programs, is to support a pathway to leadership opportunities within the skilled trades,” said France Daviault, CAF’s CEO. “When there is equitable decision making and inclusive leadership in a place of work, recruitment, retention, and productivity are positively impacted.”
Meanwhile, a new “Extending the Ladder” podcast featuring Kabri Lehrman-Schmid, a project superintendent with Hensel Phelps, focuses on how to attract more women into the trades and help them succeed.
“As a female leader in a male-dominated space, I strive to improve team dynamics to overcome barriers for women and challenge existing perceptions in the skilled trade industry,” said Lehrman-Schmid. “In this discussion, [podcast host Nancy Novak and I discussed] strategies not only for attracting more women into these important careers but also creating an environment for success. A critical part of that strategy is building relationships with team members to meet both individual and project needs while promoting a brighter future for women in the field.”
Novak added that with women representing just a fraction of some trades, barriers must be broken to encourage more to pursue related careers.
Last month, the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) launched its annual campaign aimed at supporting, attracting, retaining, and advancing women within the collision repair industry.
WIN, which provides networking and connection opportunities for women in the space, is seeking “vital” sponsorship to help grow and diversify the available talent pool. It also recognizes influential women within the collision repair space at its annual conference to both celebrate successful peers and inspire others.
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