The Apprenticeship and Certification Board and Apprenticeship Manitoba have committed to increasing the number of women in non-traditional trades in the apprenticeship and certification system.  Women currently represent only two per cent of apprentices in non-traditional trades, which include those in the construction, manufacturing, industrial, and transportation sectors. With skills shortages being felt across the nation, women are the key to increasing the skilled labour workforce in Manitoba and beyond.

Why Choose the Trades?

With anticipated skills shortages in many industries, there are many opportunities for women to consider the vast career pathways in the skilled trades.  There are many myths about women entering trades-related careers however even more so today; these myths are being publicly challenged.  The most popular myth is that women do not have the strength to perform skilled trades.  In reality, physically demanding work does not only imply strength.  In the majority of skilled trades, there are major requirements for dexterity, strong hand-eye coordination, stamina and balance – these are all attribute that women equally possess along with men.  In order to debunk these myths and make the skilled trades an equal opportunity environment, more female apprentices and journeypersons are needed to represent the true value women have in the skilled trades.  If you want to develop highly skilled experience and have autonomy over your career, then consider a career in the skilled trades!

Building Bridges: Increasing Women in the Trades

Apprenticeship Manitoba hosted the province’s first Women in Trades forum on October 2, 2014.  Female apprentices, journeypersons, employers, training institutions and government representatives attended to discuss the specific challenges women face in entering non-traditional trades.  The forum featured a presentation from Leonard Harapiak, Chair of the Board, in which he presented the key findings and challenges outlined in Board’s Target Groups Advisory Committee’s report. There were also panel discussions featuring apprentices and journeypersons in which they shared personal accounts of the barriers they have experience and the changes they feel are required to increase representation of women in the skilled trades.  A highlight reel of upcoming initiatives for women in the trades was provided by the Centre for Education and Work and the Manitoba Construction Sector Council.  Professor Grace O’Farrell provided the keynote presentation in which she discussed the business case for promoting a diverse trade community.
The presentations and activities helped connect participants and highlight the common barriers that women face in entering the trades.  For example, it was found throughout discussions that:
  1. There is unequal treatment between male and female apprentices in terms of assigned workload, quality of tasks, and promotional opportunities;
  2. There is a presumed workplace culture in many organizations where women are made to feel unwelcome and disrespected on the jobsite;
  3. There is a lack of accurate, accessible information targeted for young girls to consider careers in the trades; and 
  4. There is a lack of public mentorship/role models that can help challenge the social perception of women in the skilled trades.
In addition to the challenges that were discussed, the following recommendations were suggested to increase the representation of women in the skilled trades:
    •  Increased mentorship opportunities for young women looking to enter the trades and current female apprentices;
    •  Employer supports to help equip workplaces in developing respectful workplace practices and policies;
    • More engagement with high schools to provide more information on the benefits and opportunities for women in the skilled trades; and
    • Programs that offer women the chance to explore different careers in the trades.
Throughout the forum, graphic facilitators visually articulated key discussion points through a graphic discussion board to highlight the existing challenges and potential solutions.
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Women in Non-Traditional Trades Professional Learning Group (WINTT-PLG)

A Women in Non-Traditional Trades Professional Learning Group (WINTT-PLG) is being developed as a take-away from the feedback received at the Women in Trades Forum.  The WINTT-PLG will provide a collaborative space for industries, apprentices, journeypersons, and employers to discuss strategies to increase female representation in the trades.  If you are interested in learning more about WINTT-PLG, or if you know of an organization that would provide value by participating in WINTT-PLG, please contact apprenticeship@gov.mb.ca.

Vocational Education Diploma

In partnership with Red River College, Apprenticeship Manitoba will be providing vocational education opportunities for women in the skilled trades to become future teachers and leaders in schools.  The program is expected to start in the fall of 2015 and will be open to 12 eligible female certified journeypersons who want to receive a vocational education diploma.  The application deadline was January 31, 2015 and selected candidates will be contacted in March 2015.

Employer Guide for Hiring Women in the Skilled Trades

Apprenticeship Manitoba will be developing an Employer Guide for Hiring Women in the Skilled Trades.  This guide will convey the benefits of incorporating diversity and inclusion strategies within the skilled trades while highlighting how women continue to excel in traditionally male-dominated roles.  This guide is expected to be available by September 2015.