Unifor supports women in Skilled Trades with grant to Ontario colleges

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Unifor has donated a $300,000 grant to Sheridan, Durham, Fanshawe, and St. Clair Colleges towards a new initiative to support women in the Skilled Trades.

“Unifor is excited to join with Ontario’s leading skilled trades colleges on this project because as a union we know advancing equality for women means they have access to good education and good-paying jobs. Persistent and systemic barriers have kept women from these great jobs for far too long and women are done waiting,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President, at the program launch ceremony held at the Magna Skilled Trades Centre at Sheridan College – Davis Campus in Brampton, Ontario on January 19, 2024.

Lana Payne standing at podium at Sheridan College

“Those barriers have nothing to do with technical ability and everything to do with systems and biases that stand in the way of the diverse skilled trades workforce Canada needs.”

The Unifor grant will support the Women in Red Seal Trades – Advancing the Career Ecosystem program, a joint venture by Sheridan College, St. Clair College, Fanshawe College and Durham College founded with a $2 million grant from Employment and Social Development Canada.

“Unifor has long warned of the escalating shortage of Skilled Trades people. Creating opportunities for women to develop and maintain careers within the Red Seal Trades will address long standing inequities and help to alleviate the looming job crisis,” said Dave Cassidy, Unifor National Skilled Trades Council Chairperson.

Sheridan, St. Clair, Fanshawe and Durham will establish a Women in Trades Network, provide career education and work to increase organizational ability to retain certified women in Skilled Trades.

“Unifor thank you for your support and ongoing work to advance understanding of who skilled tradespeople are - one based on competency and not gender. Representation is the key to building safe, diverse workplaces that provide opportunities for everyone and today is the start. We all have a role to play in removing barriers,” said Dr. Janet Morrison, President and Vice Chancellor of Sheridan College.

The program launch event was emceed by Tara Tyler, a Welding and Fabrication Technician student from Sheridan’s Magna Skilled Trades Centre who found work in a structural steel shop. 

Woman standing at podium

“I was the first woman hired in that shop and they just hired their third female welder in the last ten months. The new (Women in Red Seal Trades) program will provide women with the support to learn, the support to find employment, the support to network with other women and the support to succeed,” said Tyler.  

Currently women make up just 5% of Skilled Trade workers in Canada.

“We know when women see themselves in the trades, when they see others like them being successful, when workplaces are welcoming, we can make a difference,” said Payne.

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