Conferences help advance women in trades

Tradespeople are in high demand in Canada. Studies and industry reports show that large populations of skilled trades’ workers are gearing up for retirement, and they are taking their skills and knowledge with them. According to BuildForce Canada, an estimated 100,000 new workers will need to be recruited from outside the construction industry between 2013 and 2021 to help compensate for this gap. This number doesn’t even include average labour increases, or new entrants under the age of 30 to the industry. In Canada, women represent only four per cent of the construction trade workforce. This is an enormous opportunity for women seeking secure, well-paid, and fulfilling employment.

Two major conferences were held earlier this year with a focus on recruiting and expanding opportunities for women to work in the skilled trades. In addition to the UBC women’s conference, Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) held a national building trades conference in Ottawa. CBTU represents the interests of more than half a million construction workers across multiple trades. In addition to actively working to recruit women into the trades and supporting them on the job, the CBTU sponsors J♀urneyman, a national program that promotes, supports, and mentors women in the skilled construction trades. Representatives attend networking and mentorship functions, Skills Canada events, trade shows, and career fairs. Their role is to share experiences, be a mentor, and to promote careers in the skilled trades.

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Toni, far right, says women’s conferences help to expand opportunities for women in the trades

Toni Drover, a 4th Year Apprentice with Local 579, attended both conferences and says events like these are important to bring women together to help promote and advance themselves in the construction trades.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for women to join the trades; great salaries, benefits and pensions,” Toni says.

Inheriting an interest in carpentry from her father’s side of the family, Toni originally pursued a career in interior and architectural design before turning her focus to learning carpentry and the construction side of things.

“The construction industry is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn. It gives great satisfaction and pride to look back on something you have built.”

Toni thanks her employer M&M Engineering, and the Carpenters Union, Local 579, for supporting her during these conferences.