Newfoundland initiative supports women in skilled trades

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Education recently announced an initiative designed to increase the number of women registering for skilled trades programs and successfully completing their apprenticeship training. The Department of Education has recently signed a $100,000 contract with the Carpenters Millwright Union.

"This government has a goal of increasing female participation in non-traditional skilled trades," said the Joan Burke, minister of education. "We have now entered into our second contract to enhance the placement of female apprentices in the workplace. With this funding, the union will establish an office of women in apprenticeship, develop an inventory of women apprentices, and establish a work placement program to ensure women apprentices are finding the training they need to complete their programs."

Burke said the union will also work with employers and companies to ensure their commitments to hiring women apprentices have been met. In addition, the union will design a provincial awareness campaign highlighting the need to expand female participation in apprenticeship, targeting post-secondary institutions, workplaces, industry associations and trade unions.

This agreement builds on the many other initiatives undertaken in recent years by the provincial government. In a separate agreement, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has been provided $400,000 over the past two years to help bring more women to the electrical trade. The government anticipates this contract will see 96 to 144 female electricians certified over the next several years. Sixty-six per cent of the 25 Alberta Centennial Scholarships awarded annually are provided to women in skilled trades, and $20,000 was allocated this year for Skills Canada to expand the Skills Work for Women Conferences.

In addition, Newfoundland has been actively working with natural and energy resource-based companies to ensure that women’s employment plans are created for all resource development in Newfoundland and Labrador. In a first for the province in an offshore development, the Hebron Benefits Agreement requires the development and implementation of a Gender Equity and Diversity Program for the Hebron Project.

The government is also actively working with Vale Inco to advance a women’s employment plan for the upcoming Long Harbour nickel commercial processing plant project.

"This initiative will further spread the message that occupations in trades and technology are open to women everywhere. As a government, we are working with professional and community groups to achieve women’s equality in all aspects of society. Partnerships with organizations such as the Women in Resource Development Committee (WRDC) and programs such as Techsploration continue to help us reach women across Newfoundland and Labrador," says Kathy Dunderdale, minister of natural resources and minister responsible for the status of women.

Younger students are also being introduced to skilled trades. The Jump Start Your Life promotional campaign – launched in November 2007 – encourages female students in junior high to register for any of the new high school skilled trades courses, part of the $11 million Future in Skilled Trades and Technology program. As of September 2008, six courses have been developed – Skilled Trades, Design and Fabrication (levels I and II), Residential Construction, Energy and Power, and Robotics. Currently, females represent 25 per cent of course registrations, with the goal of reaching a 50 per cent participation rate by female high school students.

"Skilled trades workers are contributing to the development and success of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we believe women apprentices and journeypersons have a major role in supplying the demand for skilled trades," says Burke. "The increased attention, funding and initiatives specifically geared to females are having a positive impact. The number of women registering for non-traditional trades is up by 35 per cent since 2004. Women are making their own mark on construction projects province-wide, and we will continue in our efforts to have more women working in this lucrative area."

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