School is out and students are once again enjoying “the lazy, hazy days of summer”. For most students, it is a 2 month break from homework and exams. For others – our grade 12 students – it is a major change in their lives. I was honoured to again offer a scholarship to 2 students graduating from grade 12 in my constituency. Some will go on to post secondary education – either at a university or at a college. And others will go directly into the job market. There was a time when we, as parents, only entertained the idea of sending our children to university. This mentality seems to be gradually changing as we recognize the importance and value of the many trades so integral to our very existence.
Many university degrees aren’t necessarily a ticket to a career. A general arts degree is seen as more of a stepping stone to other specific degrees more likely to prepare one for a career. Degrees like Commerce, Education, Nursing, are some of the studies that prepare the student for a particular job.
Where do graduates of high school go if they wish to pursue a trade or certificate? In Manitoba we have RRC (Red River College Polytech), MITT (Manitoba Institute of Trades & Technology), University College of the North (The Pas), and the Len Evans Centre for Trade and Technology (Brandon). We used to think of the trades as being limited to carpenter, electrician, or mechanic. That has totally changed, and the diversity seen at our technical colleges opens up a vast choice of careers:
· health care including health care aide, medical office assistant, pharmacy technician, rehabilitation assistant;
· Information and communication technology
· Design and manufacturing technologies
· Human services including sales and evens coordinator, hotel and hospitality services, early childhood education;
· Business and Management;
· Community Services;
· Computer and Information Systems Technology;
· Engineering and Construction;
· Health Sciences;
· Skilled trades;
· Transportation Technology
The choices are almost infinite and with today’s current labour shortage one is practically assured of being able to find a job in one’s chosen career upon graduation. Women make up nearly half of the entire Canadian workforce, but the perception still exists that certain jobs in the trades should only be done by men. In reality, women excel in all traditionally male-dominated careers. Working in the trades is often hard, physically demanding work. In order to enter these careers, there is no denying the fact that they will need to train to be physically fit, determined, confident, and capable of operating the same tools and machinery as their male counterparts.
Another difference we are seeing is the trend to encourage more women in trades and technology. As part of its commitment to being student focussed, MITT continues its support – with help from its partners in government and industry – of women looking to pursue education and employment in trades and technical career fields. The Province of Manitoba kick-started Women’s Equality Week 2019 in MITT’s Motorsport shop with a funding commitment that will help the college teach more women about the opportunities that exist in the trades. The government is continuously working to break down barriers and see that anyone can pursue a field of interest and no field or occupation should ever be defined by gender.
Women currently represent only two percent of apprentices in non-traditional trades, which include those in the constructions, manufacturing, industrial and transportation sectors. With skills shortages being felt across the nation, women are the key to increasing the skilled labour workforce in Manitoba and beyond. Hands on trades have traditionally been dominated by men. But with today’s mentality changing regarding this and a high demand for workers, more women are now joining the skilled trades industry. However, some women working in male dominated workspaces still deal with challenges like sexism, discrimination, and harassment. This probably is a huge factor in the fact that women only make up 5% of skilled trades workforce across Canada.
Women have only ever seen men in the skilled trades and in many cases it’s not a career they even consider. Canada, like many developed countries, is facing a severe shortage of skilled trade workers as well as other occupations. The pandemic seems to have contributed to this labour shortage for reasons that aren’t quite clear. Many construction projects were halted during the pandemic and are now resuming, but many tradespeople retired during his time.
Despite the challenges listed above, more Canadian women are now entering the skilled trades industry to address the shortage. More companies are also working hard to be inclusive as they need to hire more women to fill these job vacancies.
No matter what direction the students take, they will find that while secondary school education is complete, the learning has just begun. I wish all grads good luck and my personal best wishes in whatever path they choose to pursue.