Photo: Kendra Liinamaa is a graduate of Cambrian College’s Millwright program and a millwright apprentice at Vale in Sudbury. She was one of the guest speakers at the college’s Jill of All Trades panel discussion about women in skilled trades.
SUDBURY – Women are making progress when it comes to skilled trades, but there is much more work to do.
That was a central message today at the Jill of All Trades panel discussion about women in trades, hosted on Zoom by Cambrian College. The session was moderated by Alison De Luisa, Cambrian’s Vice-President of Human Resources and Student Services, who also spent 16 years working in the mining industry.
“This is an area that I feel passionate about, and I do think it’s important we mentor and guide young women as they look at their career options,” said De Luisa in her opening remarks.
More than 90 people attended the panel discussion, which featured women currently employed in some capacity in the skilled trades.
Cheryl Carbis joined the panel on behalf of the Electrical Safety Authory (ESA). Carbis has been a licensed electrician for more than 30 years and was the ESA’s first female electrical inspector.
“The careers that you can follow in the trades are far superior than anything else. It’s afforded me the ability to have a house, raise my four sons, and have a very fulfilling job.”
Two of the panelists are just starting their careers in the skilled trades.
Both Kendra Liinamaa and Patricia Tousignant have graduated from Cambrian’s Millwright program within the last two years.
“Women in trades adds a diversity that men didn’t realize was so necessary, like having small hands or maybe a little extra flexibility can go a long way,” said Liinamaa, who took part in the panel discussion after completing a night shift. “It can make the difference between removing one bolt and getting the whole piece out, or removing half the frame to get the piece out. Women offer something that wasn’t appreciated before.”
“Two years ago, my husband suggested I go into the skilled trades, which is not something I was even considering,” added Tousignant, an apprentice millwright with WB Melback Corporation in Kirkland Lake who joined the panel discussion from Alberta where she just completed a night shift. “I really believe women can make a difference in the industry. We’re also bringing economic stability to our families. We’re making more money so we can support ourselves and our families.”
Panel members addressed some of the challenges facing women who are pursuing careers in the skilled trades. They include access to child care for women on shiftwork, access to women’s washrooms and changing stations, and the perception that women aren’t physically strong enough.
A number of panelists pointed out that the trades are not as physically demanding as before, and strength is something that can increase on the job.
Panelist Stella Holloway encouraged women entering the trades to have strong communications, computer, and technology skills. Holloway is the Vice-President of Northern Operations for MacLean Engineering.
“Gone are the days when tradespeople just carried a wrench,” said Holloway. “They have to be computer literate, they have to have conflict resolution skills and the ability to troubleshoot.”
“What I think is critical for young women to be successful in entering the industry is resilience,” added panelist Audrey Manninen, Leadership and Talent Development Manager for TESC Contracting Company in Sudbury. “Mental and emotional resilience is key to overcoming the challenges that continue to exist, and to adapt to the environment.”
According to a recent report from RBC, 700,000 skilled tradespeople will retire by 2028. Women make up only 11 per cent of new registrants in trades apprenticeship programs and less than 4 per cent of workers in the most in-demand trades.
To promote more women in the trades, Cambrian College has a number of regular initiatives. They include special pre-apprenticeship programs for women, bursaries for women enrolled in skilled trades, the Jill of All Trades event for school girls, participation in the annual Skills Ontario Young Women’s Conference, and partnerships with private industry to promote women in the trades.
“We currently have about 57 women registered in our skilled trades programs this fall semester, which is approximately 10 percent of all of our trades students, which is above the 4 per cent average nationwide,” explained panelist Kim Crane, the Chair of Cambrian’s School of Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Environmental Studies. “We’ll continue to seek new opportunities to partner with other organizations to promote women in skilled trades.”
Cambrian College’s Jill of All Trades event is being held next week. It is a virtual session that will provide young women from grades 7-12 with a preview of skilled trades.
Cambrian College would like to thank its many community partners and sponsors who make Jill of All Trades possible:
Sudbury Catholic District School Board, Dual Credit, Rainbow District School Board and OYAP
Dixon Electric, Domtar, Electrical Safety Authority, IAMGOLD, Lopes Limited, Manitoulin Transport, TESC, Toromont CAT/Battlefield and Vale
Boilermakers Union Local 128, Canadian Tire, Carpenters Union Local 128, Cooper Equipment, Epiroc and MacLean Engineering
Alectra, Ionic Mechatronics, KGHM International, Komatsu, Milman Industries, Pioneer Construction, UA Local 800, Workforce Inc.
Cambrian College is Northern Ontario’s largest college, with more than 90 programs. Cambrian’s main campus is in Greater Sudbury, with satellite centres in Espanola and Little Current. For more information about Cambrian College, visit www.cambriancollege.ca
705-566-8101, extension 6302