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Apprenticeship Forum encourages women to enrol in skilled trades

January 12, 2023  By Don Horne

Liz Sandwith, RSE Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic. Photos courtesy of CAF.

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF-FCA) has successfully completed the pilot for the new National Leadership Development Program for Women in the Skilled Trades.

The National Leadership Development Program for Women in the Skilled Trades was developed in partnership with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices (the Office) and is available to all tradeswomen including Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S+ individuals, immigrants, persons with disabilities, and those from racialized groups.

France Daviault, Executive Director of CAF-FCA, believes that this program is only the beginning of additional development supports that will help bridge the leadership equity gap.

“The goal of this program and other future programs being considered by CAF-FCA, is to support a pathway to leadership opportunities within the skilled trades. When there is equitable decision making and inclusive leadership in a place of work, recruitment, retention, and productivity are positively impacted,” she says.


The pilot program was completed in December of 2022 and is scheduled to begin the second cohort in February 2023. CAF-FCA has gathered insights from those involved in the program, to share with the skilled trades community a reflection of the growth that the dedicated participants in this first cohort experienced. Fourteen participants completed the course and earned a certificate.

Genevieve Ellis, RSE Boilermaker.

“I want to say thank you. Thank you for putting this course on and helping me find myself again. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I am so happy I was selected to be a part of this, it came at the absolute best time in my life. You have helped me regain my confidence, I am back to enjoying my trade and back to feeling like me again.,” said one participant in the program.

One participant has received a promotion since completing the program, while another wants to organize a confidence building workshop for women in her union.

“This course was fantastic, and I have benefited so much.  I head into 2023 with a strong base of leadership skills to build from.  I highly recommend this course for any tradesperson looking to develop themselves and help others along the way.  The work that CAF-FCA has put into this is so appreciated and has made an enormous difference in my life and career,” said another participant.

The program focused on improving knowledge about strategies to mentor, take on leadership roles on the job site and within their unions, communicate, resolve conflict, and speak with confidence. With these enhanced skills, tradeswomen can be leaders in their field and make a positive difference for other tradespeople in their community, as noted by another one of the participants:

“Thank you for selecting me as a participant of this the inaugural cohort of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum’s National Women’s Leadership Development Program. I am truly grateful for the chance to reflect on what this program has meant for me both professionally and personally. It came to me at the perfect time in my life and I am a better tradesperson for having met my cohort and our talented facilitators and studied this incredibly valuable material. I am so eager to show you all what I am capable of, what I can build for myself, and how I can serve others with the skills and techniques I have developed these past months.”

Not only have the individuals involved in the program been positively impacted by the experience, but industry will also benefit through empowered and qualified women leaders.  The participants are already pursing additional programs, and two have enrolled in higher education.

“Even with this first cohort and the engagement and success so far, it is evident that given the correct tools and support for growth and leadership, women will positively impact change and advancement in the trades sector.  As women leaders embrace equity, diversity and inclusion, their leadership style will influence how apprentices act on-the-job, leading to more supportive and safe workplaces for all employees,” says Karen Walsh, Project Consultant, Office to Advance Women Apprentices.

The National Leadership Development Program for Women in the Skilled Trades is offered at no cost to tradeswomen and offered in a safe and respectful setting. CAF-FCA and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices are working with industry, trades unions, government, and training institutions to support development and administration costs. The next cohort is set to start on February 13, and information to apply for the September 2023 cohort will be released in the coming months.

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