PEI

Women working in trades in P.E.I. looking to see industry shift

Since Women Building P.E.I. launched last year the group has expanded to nearly sixty members — and its looking to see that number grow with the hopes of recruiting and retaining women in the trades.

P.E.I. group formed to help retain women in trades

The group Women Building P.E.I. says its membership has increased, but there is still a need to see more women in the trades. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Since Women Building P.E.I. launched last year the group has expanded to nearly sixty members — and its looking to see that number grow with the hopes of recruiting and retaining women in the trades.

Last year, co-founder and electrician Emily Van Toever identified a need to retain women working local trade jobs.

"There has been a few women who have worked in the industry on the Island in the last few years, and after being in the trades for four or five years, right around when they are due to get their red seal they change occupations," she said.

There are many reasons a woman may choose to change occupations.

"A lot of that is to do with toxic workplaces, or feeling unsupported or isolated."

People still aren't used to seeing women in the industry yet, said Van Toever.

"We're allowing people in the trades, women specifically to network and to realize they are not alone."

Positive feedback

The group has received positive feedback from members, said Van Toever.

"There has been a lot of brainstorming sessions when we have met on where they would like to see the group go and what sort of activities would be most beneficial to them."

The group has talked about not just retaining women in Island trade industries, but recruiting them as well. 

"There isn't much being done in the junior high, elementary level of recruitment. And we find going into high schools it's pretty much off young girls' radars at that point."

The group also wants to establish a shop space where they can host workshops, Van Toever said.

"To allow women to get more comfortable using tools and to learn skill sets that would allow them to be more confident on the jobsite."

More women graduating trade programs

Van Toever has a degree through the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and she was facing underemployment. 

So, she looked at retraining, but because she had a young daughter she didn't want to go into a program longer than a year. 

That lead her to the trade programs at Holland College where she studied to become an electrician.

"I've been working full-time in the industry since I completed the program at Holland College," Van Toever said.

She has seen some growth in women joining the industry over the last few years.

"Last year from the Holland College trades and technology courses they had the most women graduate from their programs to date."

However, it is still rare for Van Toever to see another woman at a job site, she said.

"The industry has to change before there will be more women, but there needs to be more women before it'll change."

The P.E.I. construction industry continues to grow, but they are facing a problem with finding enough workers, Van Toever said.

"There is a real need for people to fill those jobs, an excellent source of people to fill those would be underemployed women on the Island."

Women Building P.E.I. has applied for non-profit status.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Isabella Zavarise

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