Calling All Young Women: Are You Canada’s Next Female Skilled Trade Apprentice?

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We can do it! That was the slogan from the now-famous advertisement encouraging women to work in skilled trades while men were overseas fighting in World War II.

30 years later, we may be out of the war, but the battle of the sexes remains.

The trades are still an extremely male-dominated field, as demonstrated by the “men at work” signs placed outside of some construction sites, and like the ratio of cookies to milk, this imbalance needs to be evened out.

Whether it’s working on building a house or constructing the best crème brûlée in a restaurant kitchen, the trades can be a great route for young female graduates looking for an “out of the cubicle” profession in Canada – and apprenticeships are your ticket in.

The Apprentice may bring about visions of a boardroom and Donald Trump’s questionable hair choices, but outside of reality TV, real world apprenticeships are a practical and worthwhile step toward a great career. Apprenticeships allow students to “earn while they learn” by combining in-school and on-the-job training to make workers job ready.

April Harris, a Conestoga College student with a passion for building and working with her hands, said that working as a carpentry apprentice helped her learn on the job.

“In the placement the learning is a lot faster because you’re actually working on a site,” Harris told The Record in 2010. “In the classes you learn theory but when you’re working you don’t have it with you. You have to take it in and do what you’re asked.”

Working in the field helped April realize which specific areas she was passionate about. “I feel way more directed now. (The program) helped me figure out what to do and where to go.”

And if you’re a young female graduate going in a similar direction that April took, consider doing an apprenticeship in Canada. They say you should get in while the getting’s good, and right now the getting is very good.

The average age of trade workers is 55, meaning that soon, the majority of the workforce will be heading for retirement, opening up tons of employment opportunities for young graduates. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada predicts that one million skilled workers will be needed by 2020. The demand is there and these programs are working to make it easier for young female graduates to get into the field. In March 2008, the Ontario government put $1.5 million into skilled trades programs for women in addition to existing tax credits and grant programs.

The Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program’s 2011 statistics reported that the number of female apprentices has increased by 528% (from 4,845 to 25,593) in the past decade, but the trades are still far from even. According report on women working in the skilled trades and technologies, the number of women in apprenticeships in construction, automotive and industry trades is typically less than 3%.

With opportunities available in the skilled trades, the report proposes that whether it’s engineering, management or the trades, the best man for the job may be a woman.

To find out more about apprenticeships in your area and programs specifically catering to women, check out these links:

 Photo credit: We Can Do It! by DonkeyHotey on Flickr
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About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.