With recent funding of half a million dollars from the province, Build a Dream is offering a series of free online workshops to not only attract more women into the skilled trades, but keep them there.
“Our goal is to help diversify the workforce by recruiting, retaining and advancing women in the skilled trades,” says Nour Hachem-Fawaz, Founder and President of Build a Dream.
She says the already large and growing skills gap that exists in Windsor-Essex, and indeed across Canada, is why women should more actively pursue careers in the sector.
Build a Dream has two streams of workshops, which cater to both aspiring skilled trades workers and existing workers.
“There must be complementary services for young women or women starting a second career so that they don’t just enter the industry, but stay in the sector,” says Hachem-Fawaz .
Avery Brooks is among those who have used Build a Dream’s services in the past and plans to participate in the new resource.
The St. Joe’s Grade 11 student is part of the Skilled Trades Academy and is currently gaining hands-on experience on construction sites with Blain Homes and Renovations.
“I really liked working with my hands, the power tools, building things,” says Brooks. “That’s definitely what I’ll be doing after high school.”
But Brooks is still something of an anomaly in the skilled trades, with women making up just 5% of workers in the field, according to Statistics Canada.
Even when women successfully enter the skilled trades, Hachem-Fawaz says the next hurdle is staying true to the profession.
“There needs to be complementary services for young women or women starting a second career so that they don’t just enter the industry, but stay in it,” she says.
Pam Kesselring, a general machining apprentice in a tool and die shop in Kitchener experienced the growing pains of entering the field as a woman.
“A big hurdle for me is getting the conditioning out of my head that the trades aren’t for women,” says Kesselring, who admits hurdles like isolation still exist.
Hachem-Fawaz says a strategy is needed more than ever for tradeswomen to capitalize on the opportunities presented by recent investments by Stellantis and LG in building the future of Windsor’s automotive sector.
“What are we going to do differently to make sure women are at this table? asks Hashem-Fawaz. “Times are changing and the best thing you can do for your daughter is open the door to endless possibilities for her.”
The free program takes place on May 10, 12, 17, 19, 24 and 26 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Academy one.
Academy two takes place on the same dates, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Academy 1: Students, pre-apprentices and trades as a second career – 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
This virtual academy will introduce women in technology courses, youth apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship programs (as well as women pursuing trades as a second career) to the benefits and barriers often associated with skilled trades. Participants will learn more about what to expect from a career in the skilled trades. The academy focuses on raising awareness, sharing goals and preparing for next steps.
Academy 2: Apprentices and journeymen – 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This virtual academy will focus on women who are already in the trades. Participants will learn about the resources available, the skills required to progress and how to build their network. Overall, the academy focuses on networking, sharing goals, and planning for future moves.