Free, online 'Trades Campus' workshops look to get more women into skilled trades

Nour Hachem-Fawaz poses in the Build a Dream offices at 6465 Hawthorne Dr. in Windsor, Ont., May 5, 2022. (Rich Garton/CTV Windsor)

With a half-million dollars in recent funding from the province, Build a Dream is offering a series of free online workshops to not only get more women into the skilled trades, but keep them there.

“Our goal is to help diversify the workforce by recruiting, retaining and advancing women within the skilled trades,” says Nour Hachem-Fawaz, the founder and president of Build a Dream.

She points to the already big and still growing skills gap that exists in Windsor-Essex, and indeed, across Canada as the reason why women should more actively pursue careers in the sector.

Build a Dream has planned two streams of workshops, which cater to both aspiring workers in the skilled trades and existing workers.

“There needs to be wrap-around services for young women or women that are going into a second career to access so they don’t only get into the industry, they stay within the sector,” Hachem-Fawaz says.

Avery Brooks is among those who have used Build a Dream’s services in the past and plans on taking part in the new resource.

The Grade 11 St. Joe’s student is part of the skilled trades academy, currently getting practical experience at construction sites with Blain Homes and Renovations.

“I really liked working with my hands, power tools, building things,” says Brooks. “It’s definitely what I’ll be doing after high school.”

But Brooks is still something of an anomaly in the skilled trades, with women making up only five per cent of workers in the field, according to Statistics Canada.

Even when women successfully enter into the skilled trades, Hachem-Fawaz says the next barrier is sticking with the profession.

“There needs to be wrap-around services for young women or women that are going into a second career to access so they don’t only get into the industry, they stay within the sector,” she says.

Pam Kesselring, a general machining apprentice at a tool and die shop in Kitchener has lived through the growing pains entering the field as a woman.

“A big obstacle for me is getting that conditioning out of my head that trades aren’t for women,” says Kesselring, who admits obstacles like isolation continue to exist.

Hachem-Fawaz says a strategy is needed now more than ever for tradeswomen to tap into opportunities presented by the recent Stellantis and LG investments into building the future of Windsor’s auto sector.

“What are we going to do differently to ensure that women are at that table?” asks Hachem-Fawaz. “Times are changing, and the best thing you can do for your daughter is open the door of endless possibilities for her.”

 

PROGRAM INFORMATION

The free program runs May 10, 12, 17, 19, 24 and 26 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Academy one.

Academy two runs on the same dates, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Academy 1: Students, Pre-Apprentices, and Trades as a Second Career – 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

This virtual academy will introduce women in tech classes, youth apprenticeship, or pre-apprenticeship programs (as well as women pursuing trades as a second career) to the benefit and barriers often associated with skilled trades. Participants will learn more about what to expect with a career in the skilled trades. The academy focuses on awareness, sharing goals, and getting ready for the next steps.

 

Academy 2: Apprentices and Journeypersons – 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This virtual academy will focus on women who are already in the trades. Participants will learn about the resources available, the skills required to advance, and how to build their network. Overall, the academy focuses on networking, sharing goals, and planning future moves.