Nova Scotia

Ottawa provides $2.5M to fund 40 female trade apprentices

Ottawa is providing a cash incentive to 40 Nova Scotia companies to hire female apprentices. Under the new federal project, the companies will get money to cover 70 per cent of the salaries of the female apprentices for two years.

Participating companies that hire female apprentices get a 70 per cent wage subsidy for 2 years

Plumbing apprentice Lisa Tufts says she thinks the program will help attract more women into the trades. (Robert Short/CBC)

As many as 40 Nova Scotian women who want to learn a trade may get the chance thanks to a new federal project aimed at attracting more women into the trades, particularly women who are black, Indigenous or are newcomers to Canada.

The $2.5 million Advancing Women in Apprenticeship project provides a 70 per cent wage subsidy for two years, along with money for training and tools.

Plumbing apprentice Lisa Tufts thinks the program is a good idea.

"It's going to help a lot of women and maybe encourage more women to get into the trades," she said from the third floor of her current worksite, the Pavilion at South Park in downtown Halifax.

Tufts, a mother of two boys who are seven and five, said working as a plumber has given her a chance to earn more than the minimum-wage jobs she had until she learned a trade.

Tufts at work on the third floor of the Pavilion at South Park in downtown Halifax. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

She said the job allows her to earn a good living and teach her sons, Keeyan and Kyler, an important life lesson.

"They can do whatever they want to do in life," she said.

Her boss, Barry McGillivray, the president of Centurion Mechanical East Coast, is happy to have Tufts on the payroll.

'They tend to have a lot of drive'

Although she's the only female construction worker on his 30-person workforce, McGillivray said she's not the first woman tradesperson his company has hired or apprenticed.

"They tend to have a lot of drive and strive to stay on an equal footing, prove that they're capable of being on an equal footing with their male counterparts and generally they're more than capable of doing that," he said.

McGillivray said women also tend to be better problem-solvers and think through, rather than forge ahead, when encountering a problem or tricky task.

He would like to see more women on construction sites.

Marjorie Davison, CEO of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, says she wants companies and unions to hire more female tradespeople. (Robert Short/CBC)

"It's about time that we started to break the barriers down a little bit more than we already have," he said.

Marjorie Davison, CEO of the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, she would like to see more company owners like McGillivray.

"We need employers and union organizations to step up," she said. "They need to show the leadership."

According to a federal government news release, women only represented five per cent of the workforce in Red Seal trades in 2017. It said women were concentrated in the three lowest-paying trades: bakers, cooks and hairstylists.

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