CIC - Winter 2023

Empowering Women: The Benefits of College Education for Careers in Trades in Canada

In Canada, as in many parts of the world, the traditional gender roles within the workforce have been gradually evolving. Women are making significant inroads into sectors that were once predominantly male-dominated, including careers in the skilled trades. College education is proving to be a powerful tool for women who are seeking careers in trades, offering a multitude of benefits that extend beyond the classroom; the most prominent being the wide array of opportunities it opens. 

Traditionally, many women have been confined to more gender-typical jobs, but a college education provides them with the skills and knowledge to enter diverse trades, from welding and carpentry to plumbing and electrical work. This expansion of career possibilities allows women to explore fields that genuinely interest them and where they can excel.

Skill Development and Expertise

A college education equips women with the essential skills and expertise required to excel in their chosen trade. It provides hands-on experience, technical knowledge, and a solid foundation in their field. Trades are often intricate and demand precision, which is precisely what a college education can provide. Through their learning, women will gain confidence and competence, setting themselves up for success.

Careers in the trades can lead to financial independence for women. By pursuing such education and careers, they can secure stable, well-paying jobs that provide for themselves and their families. Financial independence is a crucial step toward gender equality, as it enables women to make choices about their lives and careers without being dependent on others.

Gender Equality and Breaking Stereotypes

Pursuing education in trades can contribute to breaking down gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality. As more women enter male-dominated trades, they challenge traditional beliefs about what is possible for women in the workforce. This helps pave the way for future generations of women who aspire to pursue careers in trades, thereby encouraging a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Diverse workplaces tend to be more innovative, dynamic, and productive. Increasing the presence of women in trades contributes to a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Women bring unique perspectives and problem-solving skills to the table, enhancing the overall work environment in the industry.

Demand for Skilled Trades Professionals

It’s well documented that Canada has a growing demand for skilled trades professionals. The country is facing a shortage of skilled workers, and this shortage is only expected to increase as older tradespeople retire. Women who graduate from college with a trade education are well-positioned to enter a job market that is eager for skilled professionals, creating ample job opportunities.

Competitive Advantage

Members of Colleges and Institutes Canada provide a wide range of options across the country; even in the most remote areas, a post-secondary education in the trades is accessible for almost anyone with several programs tailored for women. A college education is a powerful tool that can give graduates, a competitive edge in the job market. Employers often prefer candidates with formal education and training in a trade, as it demonstrates commitment and expertise. With their college education, women can stand out from the competition and secure better job prospects.

In Canada, apprenticeships are an integral part of the path to a successful career in the trades. While pursuing a college education provides the theoretical foundation, apprenticeships offer hands-on training and practical experience. Many college programs facilitate apprenticeship placements, giving women the chance to learn and earn simultaneously.

Job Security and Work-Life Balance

Trades professions typically offer a high level of job security. The demand for skilled tradespeople remains strong, regardless of economic conditions. By securing a career in a trade, women can ensure their long-term job security, even during uncertain economic times.

Many careers in trades offer the advantage of a good work-life balance. This is particularly important for women who often bear a greater share of family responsibilities. In the trades, women can find jobs that allow them to balance work and family life more effectively.

Networking and Personal Fulfillment

Through education women are offered valuable networking opportunities. Connecting with professors, fellow students, and industry professionals, will allow them to build a network that can be instrumental in their career development. This networking can lead to mentorship, job referrals, and career advancement.

Choosing a career in trades can be personally fulfilling for women. Working with their hands, solving problems, and seeing tangible results can provide a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. For many women, this sense of fulfillment develops their self-confidence and is a driving force in their career choice.

Variety, Respect and Recognition

An appealing aspect of navigating the trades is the variety and the opportunity to explore different aspects of the field. Women can work in various settings, take on different roles, and specialize in areas that align with their interests and skills. This diversity can make a career in trades continually engaging and rewarding.

As more women enter the trades with college diplomas and degrees, the industry is gradually evolving to become more inclusive and respectful of gender diversity. Tradespeople are increasingly recognizing the value of women in the field, leading to greater respect and equal treatment.

Supportive Educational Environment

Many colleges in Canada are committed to fostering a supportive environment for women in trades. They offer resources, mentorship programs, and initiatives to encourage female participation in these fields. These efforts ensure that women receive the necessary support to excel in their education and subsequent careers.

Through their pursuit, women become part of a community of like-minded individuals who share their passion. This sense of belonging can be empowering and reassuring, as it demonstrates that they are not alone in their journey.

Innovation, Creativity and Sustainability

Trades professions often require innovative problem-solving and creative thinking. Women can harness their creativity to bring fresh solutions to old challenges, contributing to the growth and improvement of their respective industries. Many trades are integral to sustainable development and environmental conservation. Women employed in the trades can contribute to building more sustainable structures and systems, making a positive impact on the environment, and earning self-gratification.

Overcoming Gender Pay Gap and Career Advancement

Education through college in the trades allow women to overcome the gender pay gap that still persists in many industries. Skilled trades often offer competitive salaries and compensation packages, allowing women to earn on par with their male counterparts who have equal skills as a result of post-secondary learning.

And with the right skills and education, women can pursue career advancement in the trades. They can become supervisors, project managers, or even start their own businesses. A formal education is the stepping- stone to achieving these career goals.

What Matters Most

The benefits of a college education for women seeking careers in trades in Canada are substantial. Not only does it provide them with the skills and expertise needed to excel in these fields, but it also offers a path to financial independence, gender equality, and personal fulfillment. Education in any facet of the trades opens up diverse career opportunities and contributes to a more inclusive and diverse workforce. As women continue to break barriers and pursue their passions in traditionally male-dominated trades, they set an inspiring example for future generations, showing that there are no limits to what they can achieve. Canada’s commitment to providing educational opportunities for women in trades is not only empowering individual women but also enhancing the nation’s workforce and economic prosperity.

Breaking Barriers: Why Women? Why The Trades?

The pursuit of gender equality remains a central theme in nearly every sphere of life. Women have been making significant strides in various fields, from politics to STEM, but there’s one area where they remain significantly underrepresented: the trades. In Canada, like many other countries, women have traditionally been less visible in trades careers, but there’s a growing movement to change this.

Canada’s economy has been built on a solid foundation of skilled trades workers. From construction and welding to plumbing and electrical work, tradespeople have played a crucial role in shaping the nation. However, the trades industry has long been seen as a male-dominated world. This traditional perception has discouraged many women from considering these careers.

Breaking down these stereotypes is not just about promoting equality; it’s about filling an urgent skills gap. Canada is experiencing significant labour shortages in the skilled trades.  And as the baby boomer generation retires, this gap is set to widen. To meet these labour demands and ensure a vibrant and growing economy, it’s crucial to encourage more women to join the trades.

But there are several challenges deter women from pursuing careers in trades. These include:

Stereotypes and Bias: The most pervasive challenge is the deeply rooted stereotype that trades are not suitable for women. This stereotype can discourage women from even considering these careers in the first place.

Lack of Female Role Models:  A dearth of female role models in the trades further perpetuates the stereotype. Women who do choose trades often find it challenging to find mentors or peers who understand their unique experiences.

Workplace Culture: Many trades workplaces still maintain a culture that may not be inclusive or welcoming to women. Harassment, discrimination, and a lack of appropriate facilities are all too common.

Educational Barriers: Even at the educational level, women may face barriers when seeking training in trades. Some may not be aware of these programs, while others may feel deterred by a lack of representation.

Physical Demands: Some trades require physical strength, which can be seen as a barrier for women. However, physical strength is not the sole requirement for success in these fields.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing awareness of the need for greater gender diversity in the trades. Several initiatives and strategies have been implemented to address these challenges:

Promoting Visibility: Organizations and individuals are working to increase the visibility of women who have succeeded in the trades. Their stories and achievements inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Educational Programs: Many colleges and institutions are offering programs aimed at recruiting and supporting women in trades. These programs provide mentorship, resources, and training tailored to the unique challenges women may face.

Changing Workplace Culture: Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of an inclusive and welcoming workplace culture. They are implementing policies to address discrimination and harassment, as well as providing facilities that cater to the needs of all employees.

Support Networks: Support networks and organizations, such as Women Building Futures and Build Together, are working to connect women in the trades, fostering a sense of community and support.

Advocacy and Policy: Advocacy groups are pushing for changes in government policies to encourage gender diversity in trades. They are working to eliminate barriers and promote equality.

Outreach Programs: Community outreach and educational programs are essential in introducing young women to the possibilities in trades at an early age. Events, workshops, and mentorship programs help girls explore the world of trades.

And by promoting women in trades, it is not just a matter of social justice; it also offers substantial benefits:

Economic Growth: A more diverse workforce can help address the impending skills shortage in the trades, leading to greater economic growth and productivity.

Innovation: Diverse teams often bring more creative and innovative solutions to problems. Women in trades can contribute fresh perspectives and ideas to the industry.

Improved Workplace Culture: Creating inclusive workplaces benefits all employees. A culture of respect and equality is essential for attracting and retaining top talent.

Personal Fulfillment: A career in the trades can be personally fulfilling and lucrative. Encouraging women to explore these opportunities can lead to higher job satisfaction and financial security.

Representation Matters: As women break through barriers in trades, they become role models for the next generation, inspiring more young girls to consider these careers.

While there is still much work to be done, there is hope on the horizon. The movement to encourage women to enter the trades is gaining momentum. The more women enter these fields, the more normalized their presence will become, breaking down the barriers and stereotypes that have persisted for generations.

As we look toward the future, it’s essential for all Canadians to recognize the value of gender diversity in trades and actively support initiatives aimed at creating awareness and opportunity for women in these careers. This will not only help the trades industry meet its labor needs but also foster a more inclusive and prosperous Canada for all.

By: Lindsay Taylor