Women encouraged to pursue career in skilled trades

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WATCH ABOVE: This year's theme for International Women's Day is "Balance for Better" - focusing on building a gender-balanced world. One of the fields you might probably identify as male-dominated is the skilled trades - but there is a GTA trades school looking to change that by calling out to women to consider careers using their hands - and a hard hat – Mar 7, 2019

Electrical apprentice Stephanie Brown installs light switches inside a newly built home at a developing residential Markham subdivision.

“I got into electrical because I wanted to work with my hands. I didn’t want to work at a desk anymore. I just thought it would be fun to try and go out into the trade workforce,” said Brown.

Stephanie attended a 12-week electrical program at a GTA trade school and graduated almost two years ago. Even though part of her day is spent working in sub-zero temperatures inside an unheated frame of a house, she says she loves her career choice.

“It’s really fun. It’s very challenging but it makes me feel very accomplished at the end of the day,” Brown said.

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It’s no secret the demand for skilled trades workers in Canada continues to increase. According to their 2019 report, BuildForce Canada has identified a future gap in tradespeople with over 91,100 workers expected to retire by 2028 – just in Ontario alone.

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The construction industry, as well as the educators at Skilled Trades College of Canada (STCC), are hoping more men –and women will choose to step into steel-toe boots in the coming years.

“We currently have about fifteen women that average enrollment a year at our campuses,” said Frank Pera, who is the lead plumbing instructor at the STCC.

“I think the women are really, really making a statement as far as the trades go that ‘we can do what the male counterpart can do as well,’ so, it’s fantastic,” added Pera.

At the school’s Vaughan campus, Shyanne Sky Gill tests out a circuit, rounding out her last month of school where she’s learning to become an electrician.

“I actually started trades I guess when I was fifteen. I did a bit of the plumbing. Wasn’t really into changing toilets and then now, I’m really into building stuff and it feels really, really good when you build something and it actually works and lights up,” said Gill.

READ MORE: Upper Grand District School board launches skilled trades summer co-op

From the school’s perspective, female students are more than holding their own academically and they generally surpass the men with soft skills like taking greater care and showing up on time.

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“I’ve seen a lot of young women come and go from here, finish at the top of their class, get out there and find work a little bit quicker in some cases than the males would,” said Pera.

Back in Markham, Stephanie has moved onto light fixtures at a different house. In the second year of her five year apprenticeship, she said she is earning almost $20 per hour, but once her apprenticeship is complete and she becomes a licensed electrician, her wage will jump dramatically.

“When I’m a licensed journeyperson, I should make about $120 thousand a year with really good benefits … I don’t think people realize the benefits of working a trade. There’s very good money to be made and it’s always going to be in demand,” said Brown.

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