A unique trades training opportunity for women is coming to southern Alberta. Women Building Futures (WBF), a non-profit organization that creates opportunities for women to experience trades and construction training, is teaming with Lethbridge College for a 12-week Journeywoman Start program this summer.
Led by Lethbridge College faculty members, the program will introduce students to a variety of opportunities within the college’s School of Trades. Participants will learn hands-on introductory skills that can help propel them to pursue careers in the trades. The program also includes career development sessions, meet-ups with industry partners and academic upgrading opportunities. The program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Women in Construction Fund program, meaning women can participate in the program without the barrier of tuition costs.
“Since day one of the pandemic, we have moved quickly to support Canadian workers,” says Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. “Skilled tradespeople across the country have been critical to essential sectors during this pandemic and will remain essential as we build back better. By funding this project, our government is delivering on building a more diverse construction workforce, providing women with the necessary support to launch well-paying careers in in-demand construction trades.”
WBF has run similar sessions in other parts of the province; however, this is the first time Journeywoman Start is being offered in Lethbridge. Participants will learn carpentry, welding and electrical skills, as well as wind turbine technician and heavy-duty mechanic training – two programs unique to Lethbridge College.
“We know that to meet industry needs, we need skilled workers,” says Jason Donkersgoed, Director, Business Development, Lethbridge College. “This is a great way to show a group that has traditionally been underrepresented in the trades that there is a place for them and that industry will support them in their career aspirations. It’s a tremendous opportunity to introduce this group to skills that can lead to a fulfilling career.”
Students receive essential safety awareness and certification, best practices for working in construction, workplace culture, exposure to the technical skills and hands-on participation in workshops to support and prepare them to enter the construction and maintenance industry.
“We’re thrilled to expand one of our key programs to southern Alberta and work with the team at Lethbridge College,” says Jess Thomson, Director, Stakeholder Relations with Women Building Futures. “This program provides introductory skills training and support for women who are underemployed or unemployed with the ultimate goal of supporting women’s economic security. The connection to employment at the end of this type of program is truly life changing for some women.”
The program is capped at 12 students, who will be selected through an application process. Students will receive certificates for successfully completing the program, and WBF says the employment rate is more than 90 per cent for graduates of the Journeywoman Start program.
While applications are open to all women, WBF is working closely with Lethbridge College’s Indigenous Services team to ensure that an all-inclusive approach is included in their recruitment efforts, focusing on opportunities for Indigenous women, specifically from the Blackfoot Confederacy, to take part in this training.
“Lethbridge College’s Indigenous Services is very happy to be partnering with WBF and we look forward to the meaningful collaboration in helping future Indigenous students achieve their dreams,” says Shanda Webber, Manager, Indigenous Services, Lethbridge College. “Providing a sense of belonging and a connection to cultural programming is an important component in providing holistic supports to assist our students in being successful in achieving their career goals. We are so grateful how WBF has welcomed and infused our Indigenous programming into their larger program with open arms.”
The program runs from July 5 to Sept. 29, and it will be delivered through a blend of in-person, virtual and online learning. The application deadline is April 26. More information is available on the WBF website.