Study shows more women moving into trades in P.E.I.

Programs to show women what a career in trades would be like are helping more choose that path on the Island, a new study suggests.

Still only 5% of the workforce, but gender equality within sight, says Women's Network PEI

A new study suggests programs to promote education in trades for women are paying off, according to Women's Network PEI. (Women's Network PEI)

Women's Network PEI is celebrating a step in the right direction towards its goal of gender equality in the trades.

The group's program, called Trade HERizons, helps women explore a possible career in carpentry, welding and plumbing.

It started in 2010, and a new study suggests that equality in the trades field will exist on the Island a lot sooner than before the program was in place.

The group collected the numbers of women enrolled in trades programs at Holland College over those years.

Sara Roach-Lewis created Trade HERizons for Women's Network PEI. (www.coady.stfx.ca)

"We went back to those numbers and we actually handed them off to a researcher in British Columbia," said Sara Roach-Lewis, the women in trades consultant for Women's Network PEI. "She did some forecasting for us based on those Holland College enrolment numbers.

"In 2009, the province was on track to see an equal number of men and women in the trades in 276 years. Since Trade HERizons, what she was able to estimate was we're now on track to see that number in 45 years. That's going from 11 generations down to one and a half."

Trying out trades

Trade HERizons was created by Roach-Lewis. It's a short program that lets women curious about trades get a real introduction.

"Each winter a number of women participate in the program," she said. "They go to Holland College, they have hands-on learning opportunities, and they get to experience in a tiny little way what it might be like to be a welder or a plumber or an electrician. And what that does is allow them to decide, hey, this speaks to me, or I really don't want to do that. And either one of those is totally okay."

Roach-Lewis also credits Skills PEI, Status of Women Canada and Holland College, as well as many employers, and she said the news was a testament to those groups as well.

P.E.I.'s first woman Red Seal plumber, Nancy Gaudet, mentors a Trade HERizons participant during a hands-on site visit at Holland College. (Women's Network PEI)

"You really feel like sometimes you toil away in the darkness, and then all of a sudden here you are able to see with hard numbers the impact of the work we've been doing," she said. "When we look at such a dramatic change, what is really clear is that is a success that lots of people can take credit for."

More women working

The trades field is still overwhelmingly male in P.E.I., but the progress is visible, said Roach-Lewis.

"What I now see when I go to Holland College is a whole lot more women in those programs. We're still talking about tiny little numbers, we're still talking about gender equality in 45 years," she said.

"The reality is this is still a hard slog for women. It is still not necessarily an easy career choice, they still are about five per cent of the workforce on P.E.I."

While pleased with the report's predictions, Roach-Lewis would now like to look at what can be done to further promote trades to women, instead of waiting for 45 years for gender equality.

"I'm not sure I'm going to be alive for that, and I'd love to be able to see it."

From Island Morning