Author: Solway, Susan
Date published: January 1, 2011
While Statistics Canada found that the economy's 2008- 2009 recession was shorter and less damaging than other countries affected, the steady rise in female representation within the labor force continues, with more training options available.
Recent numbers, according to Statistics Canada, conclude that one in every 10 trades people are women.
The overall percentage remains low as women account for only 1.7% of those who completed programs in the electrical, electronics and related trades, and the metal fabricating trades. Meanwhile, 3% account for those in the building construction trades.
Since the Canadian economy demands more labor workers, the interest by women who prefer a more hands-on job to that of a desk job or a health care job is becoming more apparent, said Shelley McNabb,
"You have to be living under a rock to know that (labor shortage) and that's going to go on for the next 10-20 years...there are a lot of women, like men, who are not suited for restaurant jobs."
McNabb is the Joint Training Committee Coordinator for the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) in Saskatoon, and handles the contracts once an apprentice has completed specific industry and trades programming at SIIT.
Within the Trades & Industrial department, SIIT offers the 3-month Women In Trades (WIT) program that is open for all First Nations women.
The idea behind the program integrates basic skills and safety tickets needed to be successful in residential and commercial construction.
The WIT program also provides life skills to prepare them for the site, which is culturally different than anywhere else, McNabb added.
"The whole goal of the (WIT) program is to get them working and then hopefully into an apprenticeship and ultimately into a career as a journey person ticket in the trade," McNabb said. "Generally speaking the job site is based on a hierarchy...we just try and prepare them."
Working within a male dominated environment can have its ups and downs, but for Tara Leggott, an SIIT journeymen carpenter for the past eight years, she has not had to deal with any sort of gender biases while working in this environment. In fact, the Ochapowace First Nation member said the men she works with are an awesome group and are overall accepting of the women who take an interest in the industry.
Leggott works within the Union of the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC), and agrees that support for women is growing.
"It's tough because there is so few of us, but I mean I haven't had any problems, it's been great," she said. "It kind of bothered me (that) I didn't have the support of other women but I didn't go through the Women In Trades Program, maybe if I did I would have seen it differently," she said.
For Leggott it was the simple idea of building things with her hands that caught her interest in high school. As well, she started working with wood and couldn't see herself sitting in an office.
The ability to be placed in various areas allows for her to be doing different things all the time, though the furthest she has had to travel was two and half hours from her home in Regina, she said.
On November 19th in Regina, Leggott was recognized at an awards ceremony hosted by the SATCC, where she took home a SIIT Joint Training Committee -Aboriginal Journeyperson's Award.
One of the biggest obstacles that the industry does not handle well is the flexibility that some family women need in their life. Most on site jobs, said Leggott, are Monday to Friday and the option to work on weekends. All include long hours and this of course relies heavily on the amount of workload.
While the pure enjoyment of the industry draws the attention of workers, it cannot be said enough that money is the biggest contributing factor to the influx of workers.
BY SUSAN SOLWAY
Sage Staff Writer