Heidi Brandley is director of workforce development at Manpower.
What is emPOWER and what does it do?
Brandley: Manpower’s emPOWER – Women In Trades is a free government-funded pre-apprenticeship training program for women who want to get into the trades. Manpower has partnered with SAIT for delivery of training in this program.
In this 15-week training program, participants receive cutting-edge knowledge and high-quality trades training in a state-of-the-art lab setting on site at SAIT, as well as hands-on work experience with various trades employers. In addition to occupational skills training at SAIT, participants also receive employability preparation training provided by Manpower.
Following the SAIT portion of the training, they will receive a four-week work experience placement with a local employer in the trades in order to gain practical experience.
Upon completion of the program, Manpower continues to provide support and assistance in finding employment in the trades.
Throughout their training, they will be exposed to guest speakers and on-site industry tours to provide exposure to what each employment in each trade would involve.
Why is it important for companies to do more training for women in the trades?
Brandley: Well, many organizations that do provide more balance in their gender employment have reported that this balance greatly increases morale and productivity.
Women still only account for approximately five per cent of the skilled trades workforce.
Today we have a challenge in the skilled trades workforce as approximately 219,000 skilled trades workers are expected to retire, but this creates an opportunity for women who are looking to work in this field.
More and more, women are entering the skilled trades, and thanks to organizations and programs that focus specifically on women, like our emPOWER – Women In Trades program, they are succeeding.
Are you finding more women open to working in the trades and if so why?
Brandley: Absolutely! We’re getting inquiries every day from women in and around Calgary and across Alberta asking how they can get into the trades. Many women have skills and experience in the trades just from their hobbies around the house or yard. Many women are finding that they are more passionate about using their hands, working with metal or wood and tools, than they are sitting behind a desk. They feel accomplished and proud!
The industry environments are also becoming more supportive of having a more diverse workforce. We hear almost every day or week from a vice-president or owner of a company, both male and female, that women in the trades bring a unique perspective, are eager to learn and aren’t afraid to ask questions.
Many of these women bring a broad skill set from their previous careers, including from management, customer service, digital, leadership and administrative skills that can be very valuable to today’s trades employers.
What range of trades does this program look at?
Brandley: Currently our program includes an introduction into five trades: welding, ironworking, heavy equipment technician, carpentry and plumbing/pipefitting. They also receive safety training and certificates in first aid, WHMIS, and CSTS, as well as apprenticeship and industry training exam preparation skills.
What about ages? What’s the target age range for women to become involved?
Brandley: There is no age limit except that the participants have to be at least 18 years old. Our first class had women in it from the ages of 20 to 60!
We do prefer that the women be out of high school for about a year at least, and are either unemployed or marginally employed. No experience in the trades is required – just the desire to work in the trades!