Increasing diversity in the workforce has long been a goal of social engineers looking for more equitable gender representation across all employment sectors.
When it comes to areas like skilled trades, however, it’s hard to provide job opportunities to women if they’re not actually demonstrating interest in becoming plumbers, electricians, millwrights, or auto mechanics.
Providing opportunities to pursue such careers in skilled trades is the objective of the Tools in The Trades Boot Camp initiative being offered through Support Ontario Youth, an organization with a mandate to support apprentices and stakeholders in the skilled trades industry. And if recent boot camp events are any indication, more women are starting to recognize the opportunity skilled trades can provide in terms of reliable employment.
“At our launch event in Oakville we had four ladies there,” said Stephen Sell, Executive Director of Support Ontario Youth. “There were 30 people in attendance so that’s more than 10 per cent. The industry percentage of female tradespeople and journeymen is maybe two percent. The interest is growing, which is good.”
Since its launch event, Support Ontario Youth has hosted 39 skilled trade boot camps, with plans in the works to facilitate 31 more across Ontario. The boot camps target both youths about to graduate high school and adults who are looking to switch careers or find a new one after being laid off.
The boot camps are intensive one-day events that start with a hands-on morning session giving participants the opportunity to complete a simple project using tools of the trades.
The second part includes learning skills related to seeking employment, including resume writing, conducting mock interviews, and refining important interpersonal skills. The final part of the boot camp takes place during the lunch hour, when attendees get to interact with professionals from various industries.
Sell said that while the majority of participants in the boot camps targeting students are male, the female numbers are growing.
“We are getting a lot more high school girls coming out than what is represented in the trades,” said Sell, who is working on contingency plans to reschedule any boot camps cancelled due to ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario. “Not many girls coming through high school know that trades are a career opportunity. The thing we’re finding with the girls is they have to have the interest first to pursue a career in a trade, so the ones coming out are being given that opportunity to learn more.”
With some reports suggesting that in a post-pandemic employment landscape the workforce could see a deficit of up to 10,000 workers in skilled trades, it’s vitally important to recruit more people into the trades to maintain Canada’s skilled labour force. Sell says the boot camp initiative is meeting expectations when it comes to fulfilling its mandate.
“We’re getting tones of positive feedback from all of the events,” he said. “The school events in particular we’re really liking how engaged the kids are. You’re not seeing them will cell phones out. You’re seeing kids engaged and participating throughout the entire day. We’re getting the right kids out and they’re coming with the right attitude. There are a lot of potential good candidates for employment when they graduate and that’s the intent.”
The Tools In The Trades boot camps focus on five primary trade sectors: electrical, plumbing, millwright, automotive service technician, and horticulture technician. They represent a great exploratory opportunity for youth and adults to receive first-hand knowledge about Ontario’s skilled trades career opportunities.
Interested high school students can talk to their guidance councillors or shop teachers to get more information. Interested adults and employers looking for potential new apprentice candidates can get more information through the Support Ontario Youth website at https://www.supportontarioyouth.ca/bootcamp.