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Canada is on the verge of a major skilled trades shortage as, according to a report released by Employment and Social Development Canada, 700,000 skilled trades workers are expected to retire by 2028. According to the Financial Post, Canada’s workforce will see a 10,000-worker deficit in 56 nationally recognized Red Seal trades over the next five years. As the residential construction, skilled trades and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries are mainly dominated by male professionals, an increase in women professionals has presented to be the best solution to the labour shortage.

Rewarding career possibilities

However, women and especially young women and girls, are not aware of the rewarding career possibilities in the skilled trades and construction industries. Plus, there is a stigma that considers a trades college not as respectable as university attendance, as it allegedly does not result in successful careers. This wide-spread misinformation on skilled trades professions, in combination with the deep-rooted stigma, has resulted in missing opportunities in rewarding, profitable careers. Not everyone is suited for academia, and the most successful trades professionals with booming businesses will agree. Professions in the skilled trades and construction industries provide the opportunity for fulfilling, profitable careers that are founded on excellent entrepreneurial skills and a strong work ethic.

The West End Home Builders’ Association (WEHBA) is an avid advocate for promoting the significant benefits of a career in the industry, especially when it comes to increasing the presence of female professionals. Through the events and initiatives of the WEHBA Women in Industry committee (WIN), the association aims to raise awareness and inform young women about the successful career opportunities the industry has to offer.

Educational showcase

The latest event organized by WEHBA was an educational showcase in partnership with with Mohawk College and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). The event took place on Oct. 12 at Mohawk College, Stoney Creek Campus of Skilled Trades. The WEBUILD Showcase offered 100 young women and gender diverse individuals in Grades 7 and 8 the opportunity to learn about the rewarding career possibilities in the residential construction, skilled trades and STEM industries. The showcase consisted of a full day of interactive workshop sessions, tours of Mohawk Campus and an inspiring session with Shannon Tymosko, a second-year electrical apprentice and advocate for the skilled trades.

“Women make up only 13 per cent of the total workforce in construction, and only five per cent of skilled trades workers,” says Bianca Bruzzese, WEHBA president. “The WEHBA Women in Industry committee is advocating for positive, cultural change that will increase inclusion and gender diversity in the residential construction industry. We are very pleased we had the opportunity to educate young women about the rewarding career opportunities within the industry, and we are thankful for the support we have received from our community partners and members in doing so.”

Attitudinal barriers and gender bias

The purpose of the WEBUILD Showcase was to inform young women in Grades 7 and 8 in the Hamilton District School Boards about the career opportunities in residential construction, and the academic pathways that exist to get them started. During the event, the students had the opportunity to visit different booths hosted by community partners and WEHBA members of different trades and fields.

Women are indeed making progress in the industry, but female professionals are still significantly under-represented in the skilled trades, residential construction and STEM industries. This is partly due to social and attitudinal barriers and partly due to lack of information and gender bias. The WEHBA Women in Industry committee’s goal is to inform and educate young women about the career possibilities in the industry at an early stage, so they can make an informed decision about their future when the time comes. Initiatives such as the WEBUILD showcase, offers a more realistic, hands-on approach that educates through practice and puts young women in direct contact with professionals from the industry.