Okanagan program to increase women in trades hits milestone

Click to play video: 'Okanagan program trains a thousand women for jobs in the trades' Okanagan program trains a thousand women for jobs in the trades
Watch: Okanagan program helping to change the face of industry – Jun 18, 2019

An Okanagan program aimed at getting more women into trades apprenticeships is celebrating a milestone this week.

Over the last decade, the Women in Trades Training program at Okanagan College has helped train a thousand women in various trades.

The initiative is slowly helping to change the status quo in some traditionally male dominated industries.

“Women want these jobs for the same reasons that men do: they are good paying jobs, it is very rewarding,” said program lead Nancy Darling.

“We knew that women wanted these type of jobs and the only thing really stopping them was a series of barriers to them obtaining work in skilled trades.”

So the Okanagan College program has been working to lift those barriers by providing financial support to cover tuition and textbooks and an introductory program that lets women try out different trades.

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READ MORE: Women account for just 4.5% of skilled trade workers in Canada: report

Students and staff say the last decade has slowly started to see change.

“Even 10 years ago, it was very rare to see a woman on the site,” said carpenter’s apprentice Laura Penney.

“It is not like there is a lot of women on site right now. I’m one of two women who are on a site of sometimes 20 to 60 men, so it hasn’t changed that much, but it is changing.”

WATCH: (March 7, 2019) Women encouraged to pursue career in skilled trades

Click to play video: 'Women encouraged to pursue career in skilled trades' Women encouraged to pursue career in skilled trades
Women encouraged to pursue career in skilled trades – Mar 7, 2019

It is a welcome shift for Penney.

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“Whenever I see another woman on site, it makes me really, really excited,” Penney said. “I make sure that I make the effort to go and make friends with that person and let them know that I’m here and we can support each other.”

Fellow apprentice Johanna Turangan-Griebe said while job sites can be male-dominated, women receive a lot of support from their male colleagues.

“Sometimes you have a little bit of a challenge here and there [but] but people are coming around,” Turangan-Griebe said.

The students say they are seeing the benefits of a career in the trades.

READ MORE: Here’s what Canadian women would be making in these jobs if they were men

Turangan-Griebe said she chose a career in carpentry to make some life changes for herself and her son.

“It offered me financial security, an education and support that I wanted [and] it has been great since,” she said.

While Penney said the job has allowed her to buy her own home at the age of 27, it’s something she didn’t expect to be able to do.

As they celebrate the program’s milestone, Turangan-Griebe is looking forward to a future in which women in trades is business as usual.

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“One day I hope that it is just normal,” she said. “It is not like an achievement, it is just day-to-day life [and] we are all working side-by-side together.”

Around 100 women receive training through the Okanagan College program each year.

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