Women in Canada make up close to half the workforce but those numbers aren’t reflected in the skilled trades.
Angela Wilkins with Skills Canada Ontario says numbers are low.
“Somewhere between two per cent and 10 per cent,” she said, depending on the field.
That’s why Skills Ontario and Loyalist College are hosting a skilled trades event aimed at women.
Shortages already exist in many trades and are only expected to increase as baby boomers retire.
Roughly 100 female high school-aged students are being given a glimpse of the options out there.
Wilkins hopes the day will help eliminate some of the stereotypes that exist.
“Mostly because they’re seen as jobs for men, kind of in the past, and we’re just kind of letting girls know that things have changed a lot.”
The college is also in partnership with the charitable organization, the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.
In 2013, the college and the charity started a fellowship program for students and apprentices.
Project lead with the college, Jeremy Braithwaite, says the three-year pilot project has now been extended to 2020.
Braithwaite says financial aid is only part of what is available to skilled trades students as they enter the college.
“Professional supports, the academic supports and the personal supports that they receive are really what help them become even more successful,” he said.
Sarah Stoliker is acting as a mentor for the day and sharing her experience with the students.
She’s in her first year in the Motive Power program at the college and has been able to take advantage of the fellowship program as well.
Stoliker likes the fact that skilled trades provide versatility in an ever-changing work environment.
“Help myself, fix cars, maybe do racing on the side, so there’s lots of opportunities, endless transferable skills that I can take anywhere I go.”
Grade 9 student Ariana Blake-Parsons says the day has been informative.
She’s not sure if the skilled trades are for her but only because she’s interested in the medical field, not because trades jobs are dominated by men.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have more female people into this kind of stuff so I’m not really intimidated by that.”
Manpower’s 2016/2017 Canada Talent shortage survey found the most difficult jobs to fill for employers is the skilled trades.