More women choosing trades

Jenny Robbins spent nearly a decade working as a cashier, waitress, bartender and cook.

Second year sheet metal apprentice Leagh Wilson works at folding several pieces of ducting at Bruins Plumbing and Heating.

Second year sheet metal apprentice Leagh Wilson works at folding several pieces of ducting at Bruins Plumbing and Heating.

Jenny Robbins spent nearly a decade working as a cashier, waitress, bartender and cook.

This year, the 27-year-old’s career path took an abrupt turn.

“I’m a single mom, and I needed something to move forward with my future,” said Robbins, who’s now training to become an electrician.

Alicia McWade and Leagh Wilson are also pursuing trades tickets: McWade in plumbing and Wilson in sheet metal fabrication. All three women work at Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating in Red Deer.

“It wasn’t even a route I was thinking about,” said the 23-year-old McWade, who previously worked at a liquor store.

Like Robbins, she wanted a vocation with better income and improved job security.

Ryan Hawley, safety officer at Bruin’s, said stories like Robbins’ and McWade’s are becoming increasingly common.

“It’s normal now to see women in all kinds of trades on a commercial site.”

That’s good news, he said, because tradespeople are expected to become increasingly scarce as Alberta’s economy recovers. Females have previously been badly underrepresented among such workers.

Leanne Colby, corporate human resources manager at Red Deer-based Studon Electric and Controls, tells a similar story.

“It’s still a man’s world, but we’re trying to change that.”

Like Bruin’s, Studon has hired a number of women into trades-related positions.

“It has been a little tougher for us,” said Colby, explaining that her company does much of its work out of town and must deal with issues like the need for segregated accommodations.

That said, she added, Studon’s commitment to a mixed workforce has created very few problems.

Hawley and Colby credit the increasing number of local women joining the trades to Academic Express Adult Education and Training, which offers a program called Women in the Trades.

Donna Hall, administrator with Academic Express, said the impetus for the program arose several years ago when Alberta began suffering from a shortage of tradespeople.

“We said, ‘Why not go the extra mile and get women in that field?’”

Working with Alberta Employment and Immigration, and industry, Academic Express developed a program that provides upgrading in math, science and English; training in areas like first aid, WHMIS, construction safety training system and personal protection equipment; work experience; and help in a variety of other areas. It also helps raise awareness of the opportunities that exist in the trades, and connects prospective workers with employers.

“It was extremely helpful,” said McWade of Women in the Trades. “I’d never done anything trade-related.”

Robbins had previously pondered a career in the trades, but was hesitant to take action on her own.

“I’d never really dealt with tools or anything like that before.

“This was a way for me to get my foot in the door. I wouldn’t have done it without them.”

Not only does the program prepare students for their trades entrance exams, said Hawley, it familiarizes them with their chosen industries so they’re less likely to drop out after starting work.

Job sites are becoming increasingly receptive to female tradespeople, confirmed Hall, who hears this from former students.

She praises companies like Bruin’s and Studon for hiring Women in the Trades graduates, but also for offering tours, doing presentations and providing job-shadowing and work experience opportunities.

That’s helping make a life-long difference for many women.

“It can provide an excellent quality of life, especially for some of the women who come from service industry work and now are successfully employed.”

Robbins agreed.

“It’s completely changed my life.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council approved a $3 million grant and a $19 million loan Tuesday to help keep Westerner Park sustainable. (Advocate file photo)
Red Deer city council approves $22M to keep Westerner Park viable after emotional debate

It’s vital ensure future success for the huge economic generator, says mayor

Red Deer Rebels goalie Chase Coward tries to find a loose puck during WHL action at the Centrium earlier this season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Changes on the horizon for Red Deer Rebels next season

New coach, roster adjustments among top priorities for Sutter this offseason

Renovations and construction have begun at Red Deer Dream Centre. (Photo contributed)
Renovations underway at Red Deer Dream Centre

Christian-based addictions treatment centre

Red Deer County's municipal planning commission gave approval for a new directional sign for a business located near Elnora.
(Image from Red Deer County)
Red Deer County garden centre and winery gets sign approved

Delidais Estate Winery and DA Gardens is located near Elnora

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation PM wants COVID-19 health disaster

Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation PM wants COVID-19 health disaster

Mourners organize a memorial, Monday, May 10, 2021, outside a mobile home in Colorado Springs, Colo., where a shooting at a party took place a day earlier that killed six people before the gunman took his own life. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
Police: Man killed 6, self after he wasn’t invited to party

Police: Man killed 6, self after he wasn’t invited to party

Colonial Pipeline joue un rôle de premier plan dans le transport de l'essence, du kérosène, du diésel et d'autres produits pétroliers du Texas vers la côte Est.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

A taxi drives past the charred remains of a car that was burned during clashes between Indigenous people from Cauca state who arrived to support the national strike, with local residents who do not support the blocking of roads in Cali, Colombia, Monday, May 10, 2021. Colombians have protested across the country against a government they feel has long ignored their needs, allowed corruption to run rampant and is so out of touch that it proposed tax increases during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Andres Gonzalez)
42 killed in Colombia protests, human rights agency says

42 killed in Colombia protests, human rights agency says

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill, on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
All parties in the Commons give approval in principle to pandemic election bill

All parties in the Commons give approval in principle to pandemic election bill

Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan of the Canadian Armed Forces joins soldiers during a lunch with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont. on Monday, July 15, 2019. A parliamentary committee will hear this morning from Carigan,  who was recently tapped to lead the military's efforts to change its culture.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Military police chief defends independence; Vance allegedly said he ‘owned’ force

Military police chief defends independence; Vance allegedly said he ‘owned’ force

In this Thursday, May 14, 2020 photo, a doctor holds his stethoscope during a patient visit in Blackburn, England, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors in British Columbia are being warned they could face investigation or penalties from their regulatory body if they contradict public health orders or guidance about COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP
B.C. doctors could face penalty for veering from COVID-19 health guidelines: college

B.C. doctors could face penalty for veering from COVID-19 health guidelines: college

A vial of the  AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta says it won't give out more first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Hope for a good summer with one dose in arms, if we ‘crush’ COVID-19: Trudeau

Hope for a good summer with one dose in arms, if we ‘crush’ COVID-19: Trudeau

Most Read