Women-focused trade initiatives on the rise in Ontario

Skilled trades tend to be considered a male-oriented field, but the province of Ontario has a number of programs designed to encourage women to work in the sector.

Working in trades is often perceived as “a man’s job” or a career path not suitable or geared towards women. 

This has led to less women going into the field or considering it as a career option. Statistics Canada found that women make up only four per cent of the Ontario trades sector while men make up 95 per cent.

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To address this disparity, the Ontario government and other independent organizations have developed programs that provide opportunities for women in trades. 

These programs also work to educate young girls about the potential of choosing trades as a career.

Skills Ontario

Skills Ontario is an organization that works to build the province’s skilled trades and technologies workforce by encouraging youth to pursue it as a career path.

The Young Women’s Initiative is geared toward young girls in Grade 7 to Grade 12 and hosts events during the school year which help to “provide skill development and mentorship opportunities.” 

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Skills Ontario also puts on career exploration events from April to August.

The Skills Ontario Summer Camp offers a week-long day camp for Grade 7 and 8 students to learn about trades and technology. 

Build a Dream

Build a Dream is a Windsor-based non-profit that works to address the diversity and gender gap in skilled trades, STEM, emergency response, and entrepreneurship fields. 

Build a Dream provides programs and services to young women that allows them to build workplace skills and make connections. 

The non-profit works together with speakers, community members and leaders through virtual conferences, career expositions and hands-on initiatives.

The Women’s Economic Security Program

The Women’s Economic Security Program (WESP) helps low-income women access training and gain employment skills or help them start their own businesses. 

The aim of the province-run program is to boost financial security for low-income women.

WESP has a number of projects aimed at sectors like information technology, skilled trades, employment training and entrepreneurship towards self-employment. 

The program also provides access to childcare, food or access to food banks, transportation, counselling, housing and legal and domestic violence support. These are meant to reduce barriers to accessing training.

One of the initiatives under the WESP umbrella is Investing in Women’s Futures. 

This group of organizations works to equip women with tools to combat domestic violence and improve their economic status.

There are 23 locations across Ontario which assist in “employment and entrepreneurial training, safety planning for women experiencing abuse,” and “public education to prevent violence against women” according to the provincial website.

Indigenous Resources

For Indigenous women, there are a number of programs and resources designed to address their specific needs.

The Ontario government has created the Building in Indigenous Women’s Leadership program. The program allows Indigenous women to “participate in leadership opportunities within their community,” according to the Ontario government website.

Indigenous women can access the program through either the Equay-wuk Women’s Group or the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)

The Minwaashin Lodge Courage to Soar Program and Nipissing First Nation True Self Program/Debwewendiziwin are part of the general employment training offered by WESP.

The Native Women’s Resource Centre and Minwaashin Lodge: Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre are two of 23 women’s centres in the Investing in Women’s Futures initiative.

The Six Nations Polytechnic We Are Welders program offers “soft skills, practical skills, safety training, technical skills and personal supports necessary for low-income women to gain local employment as a welder,” according to their website.

Colleges and Trades Programs

Many post-secondary institutions have trades programs and courses geared towards women. 

Canadore College in North Bay offers a free General Carpenter Pre-Apprenticeship geared towards Indigenous women and any woman interested in carpentry, which runs for 21 weeks. 

George Brown College in Toronto has a Women Transitioning to Trades and Employment program designed for women who want to make a career change. The program is free for students and is funded by the provincial government. 

The program is part of the Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology Training (WIST) initiative through the provincial government. 

Other post-secondary trades programs include the College Boreal Practice of Carpentry and Renovation program, the Six Nations Polytechnic We Are Welders program and the Conestoga College General Carpentry Pre-Apprenticeship program. 

Other trades programs include fashion programs, app development, entrepreneurship courses and YWCA offerings. 

Many of these programs operate at little to no cost for women.

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