Skilled trades workshop gives women 'a jump start' for apprenticeship

A group of women are hoping they get one of 25 spots in a pre-apprenticeship program after they complete a 40-hour workshop that helps prepare them for a career in the skilled trades.

40-hour workshop involves skilled trades and offers math classes

Terry Weymouth says the workshop can help prepare women for the entrance test and interview to get into the pre-apprenticeship program. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

A group of 40 women are hoping to write a new chapter in their life by getting into one of 25 spots in a pre-apprenticeship program offered through St. Clair College.

And to prepare for the test and interview to snag a spot, they are attending a 40-hour workshop that exposes them to a variety of different skilled trades and even math classes.

"We're a wealth of knowledge pouring it on them for a whole 40 hours," said Terry Weymouth, coordinator for the women of skilled trades from Unifor.

The Local 444 Unifor has developed the workshop and is offering it with Women's Enterprise Skills Training in Windsor, with funding support from the Ontario government.

The idea of the workshop is to give the women a taste of what working in skilled trades is like before they commit to a lengthier program, Weymouth said.

The pre-apprenticeship program has free tuition and a 12-week paid placement. It starts in August.

(Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

'I know I can do it'

This workshop targets women who are unemployed or underemployed, and may be facing a number of barriers to furthering education or getting a stable job.

One of the workshop participants went to school for graphic design years ago, but she now wants to start working with her hands.

And even though Sarah Mitchell's never done robotics or electronics, learning about it has lit a fire inside her.

"I know I can do it, and it's really interesting," she said.

Some of her family members work in the skilled trades and she took a machinist course when she was in high school in Amherstburg.

It's been difficult for her to find a job and she's hoping that getting into the pre-apprenticeship program will change her life.

"I know not everyone may get selected, but [the workshop] gives me a jump start to find the path that I need to take," Mitchell said.

Sarah Mitchell loves working with her hands and she wants a job where she isn't bound to the desk all day. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Confidence boost

Part of this 40-hour workshop includes bringing in women who have graduated from the pre-apprenticeship program to talk about their journey working in skilled trades.

Weymouth said one of the barriers that women face in skilled trades is the lack of confidence. And that's on top of the other struggles such as child care options and transportation access.

Over the years, she's heard women talk about how they want more stability in employment and want to get out of the precarious nature of retail or service industry jobs.

And when they got into skilled trades, they were "challenging themselves like they never could," Weymouth said.

During the workshop she hopes the participants can get a confidence boost from being around other women in skilled trades.

"It's not based on the fact that we're women, it's based on the fact that we're capable, and just as capable."

With files from Katerina Georgieva

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