Nelson: Alberta women seek to bridge trades gap

“Because they can experience such a rapid transition, we see employment in the trades as a very viable career path”

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Two Alberta companies are joining forces to jump-start the careers of women who want to work in the trades and help close a significant gender gap in employment.

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Despite a looming shortage of tradespeople in Canada, the number of women currently involved in this type of work still hovers around just 4%, according to a recent Royal Bank report.

SkillsTrader, a high-tech online platform designed to bring businesses and future traders together, and Women Building Futures, a non-profit organization aiming to place unemployed and underemployed women in careers that offer more than a simple basic living wage, have formed a strategic partnership to increase the number of women in jobs once considered the exclusive domain of men.

Companies using SkillsTrader’s digital platform will now have equal access to the resumes and backgrounds of female graduates of the Building Futures program – a collaboration that is hoped to increase the number of women in the trades.

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Fadi Smaidi started SkillsTrader in Edmonton several years ago as Canada’s first social media community focused specifically on the skilled trades.

As the owner of three auto body shops, he initially focused the platform on the vehicle repair and maintenance industry, but soon saw an opportunity to expand into a host of other trades. , especially after Microsoft approached him and helped fund the start-up as well as providing a stable user platform.

The site provides tradespeople with the tools to promote themselves and offers a detailed resume hosting service, which assigns each individual a score reflecting their expertise, experience and education, helping potential employers find jobs faster. suitable candidates for a particular position.

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With many employers desperate for skilled tradespeople, Smaidi realized that women were an untapped resource, often ignored because such work was so often seen as suitable only for men.

“Traditionally these were very male careers, so we knew if we wanted to increase the number of people available for work, getting women into space was an obvious answer,” he said.

“I’ve always tried to recruit women – two of my best draftsmen in my body shop were women – and I think if you’re successful in a male-dominated industry you have to be really good at what you do. .

“So diversity and inclusion is something that the trades industry needs to fully support,” added Smaidi, whose start-up company now has offices in Calgary and Edmonton and operates across Canada and in the United States. -United.

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Corinne Longoz, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Women Building Futures, welcomes the partnership with SkillsTrader.

“Our employer partners have been requesting a job site for many years – we see this as a critical bridge to our employers of choice,” she said.

WBF was created in 1998 when a group of social workers in Edmonton recognized that the trades offered an excellent way for women to find well-paying work relatively quickly without the need for a long and expensive period of university training, which which was often a difficult initial hurdle. for many to overcome.

Today, the WBF is active in every major city in Alberta, and with the rapidly growing future need for tradespeople in the province, it sees great opportunities for women in these jobs.

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“The reason we’re focusing on the trades is that we’re seeing that we can transition women into the trades quite quickly and they can see, on average, a two and a half times increase in their income from pre-employment training.

“Because they can experience such a rapid transition, we see employment in the trades as a very viable career path,” Longoz said.

WBF offers pre-apprenticeship training and gives women practical knowledge about what a future career entails, as well as information about different apprenticeship programs.

“When they leave us, they have that basic understanding. We think that helps a lot,” Longoz added.

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