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Women in Skilled Trades

Posted at March 23, 2012 | By : | Categories : Blog | 0 Comment

While women make up approximately 11% of total apprenticeships completed across Canada, their numbers are highly concentrated in traditionally female dominated industries within the Service skilled trades. More than two-thirds of these women completed apprenticeships in hairstyling. Likewise, of everyone who went into the food service industry, approximately 80% were women.  In contrast, less than 3% of all apprentices in the Construction, Automotive and Manufacturing trades were women.

With 50% of our current trades people expected to retire in the next seven to ten years, Canada will face a huge challenge in finding replacement workers. This impending skills shortage in the trades means non-traditional jobs are opening up to women. Opportunities to enter into construction, mechanical and manufacturing occupations are becoming available to women in the same way that opportunities opened in the medical and legal professions in the ‘70s, and in the engineering technologies in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Pan-Canadian associations, National Sector Councils and major employers alike are beginning to identify women as one of the obvious labour pools on which to draw to solve the looming shortage. Keep in mind that women who work in these non-traditional trades occupations generally receive higher wages than women working in traditionally female dominated careers.

Although women may consider their physical strength to be a barrier to working in the skilled trades, brute strength is not a requirement for working in the trades. Tradeswomen quickly learn to use body mechanics for leverage to perform a difficult task or how to chose the proper equipment or tools to move a heavy object. Physical occupations present many challenges where the good balance and the smaller size that women usually have can be very advantageous. While there is certainly a physical component to most trades, technology has also changed the nature of how work gets done. Consider that work in many of the skilled trades increasingly uses computer software and mechanical equipment.

Are women ready to take up the challenge? The answer seems clear. There is a new wave of young women beginning to enter the workforce. They know that they have a right to work in jobs that they choose. They want to assert ownership of their place in the world. They want to experience the joys and rewards of physical work.



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Apprenticeship Career Connections is an independent not-for-profit project of the Peel Halton Workforce Development Group.