Lethbridge College has partnered with non-profit organization Women Building Futures (WBF) to bring a unique trades-training opportunity to southern Alberta.
Based out of Edmonton, WBF works to create opportunities for women to experience trades and construction training, and will be coming to Lethbridge for the first time this summer.
Funded in-part by the Government of Canada’s Women in Construction Fund program, women who participate will do so without any cost.
“We’ve been building skills and connecting women to opportunities in the construction trades for actually more than 20 years,” said president and CEO Carol Moen.
“We work hard to make women aware that it is an option for them,” Moen explained.
Starting this July, the 12-week Journeywoman Start program will take place under the instruction of Lethbridge College faculty, where participants will receive essential safety awareness and certification, graduating with a total of eight certificates.
The program includes a variety of hands-on trades training, as well as career development sessions, meet-ups with industry partners and academic upgrading opportunities, and will be delivered through a blend of online, virtual, and in-person learning.
“Carpentry, welding, electrical, (wind-turbine) technician, and heavy-equipment technician, so very diverse,” Moen said. “We have components on leadership, we have components on organization, financial skills.”
Jason Donkersgoed, director of business development with Lethbridge College, said this is an important and timely collaboration.
“I love that Women Building Futures is all about empowering women’s economic prosperity,” Donkersgoed said. “It’s great that they thought and took a look at what we offer at Lethbridge College, and said there’s an opportunity here to help with their mission.”
Current enrollment numbers provided by Lethbridge College show 957 students are enrolled in 18 programs through the School of Trades. Of those, 888 are men, and only 69 are women.
Donkersgoed hopes to see those numbers change as times progresses.
“(It) would be absolutely amazing at some point to see a 50-50 split in women and men.”
Carly Frew, a longtime journeyman electrician, says women looking to enter the industry should explore their options and get in touch with others in the industry to get an idea of what it’s like.
“I started back in 2007, and I didn’t know anyone else in the trade,” she said. “Have a conversation with somebody that’s been through it, and maybe talk to multiple different people.”
During her time as an electrician, Frew says she has seen a slight increase in women entering the workforce, but not as many as she’d like to see complete their apprenticeship.
“You kind of have to have a certain type of skin to stick it out,” she said. “It’s not easy, it’s worth it.”
Frew believes a career path in the trades can be a great option for those who are willing to put in the work.
“There’s so many life skills that you learn when by going into the trades,” she said.
“You work with your hands, you have to be quick on your feet. A lot of common-sense, you’re really self-sufficient when you learn these tools.”
The deadline to apply for the Journeywomen Start program is May 10.