Going National: Women’s apprenticeship program expands across Canada

Toronto, Ontario — An organization designed to help women advance in the trades is expanding across Canada after helping out hundreds of women in Newfoundland for more than ten years.

The Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA) was launched over a decade ago with the hopes of offerring real support to female apprentices entering the industry.

According to executive director of the OAWA, Karen Walsh, there was a clear lack of support for female apprentices entering trade such as auto repair and mechanics.

According to Walsh, “the missing link is often wrap-around support services.”

“Many other provinces are saying: Women are going into the trades but they are not staying,” Walsh told Daily Commerical News.

And Walsh isn’t wrong.

According to leading research, the national average of women in underrepresented fields in Canada is between three and four percent. However, Newfoundland’s program has been fighting to increase this number with some innovative tactics.

“[Through our program], we have helped businesses with inclusion plans. We have a database of about 2,000 women they can look to for hiring.”

Now, Newfoundland’s average is close to 14 percent when it comes to female employment in certain trades, and they hope to continue growing.

“Our program has been trial and error and for the most part there hasn’t been much error,” Walsh explained.

In addition to OAWA’s database, their services such as mentorships programs, networking events, and working alongside unions has helped significantly. But there’s still work to be done.

“If a woman is on-site and she’s the first to be laid off or she’s struggling to stay in the trade,” stated Walsh.

“But these are the types of issues we’ve been able to [work against] so we can keep women in the trades and advance them.”

The OAWA has partnered with the Canadian Building Trades Union to open offices in  Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

For more information, visit womenapprentices.ca

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