Currently, less than 4% of people employed in the trades are women. [Statistics Canada: Labour Force Survey, 2018.] Yet, it’s not only women who can benefit from choosing a career in skilled trades. Employers have a lot to gain by seeking out women for their company’s workforce, too. Here are a few good reasons why:
Avoids labour shortages in a booming industry
In the years ahead, the B.C. construction industry will need all the help it can get. With $115 billion in projects currently underway and another $206 billion in proposed future projects, BCCA forecasts an accumulated labour shortfall of over 7,900 skilled workers by 2028.
The trades sector is a key economic driver throughout British Columbia. It employs about 180,000 workers out of a total of more than 242,000 construction jobs. Yet, despite a strong sector performance—up 17% since 2014— a severe labour shortage exists, especially in the skilled trades sector.
Boosting diversity is good for business
Considering the high-demand home renovations and new construction projects underway, supporting women in the trades just makes good business sense.
Women drive between 70 and 80 percent of all consumer purchasing, including buying goods and services for their families and elderly parents. Skilled tradeswomen on the job would provide opportunities to offer suggestions to increase a product’s usefulness and appeal to women.
Advocates say that hiring women might benefit how staff work together by reducing bullying on work sites and enhancing diversity.
Launched last year, the Builder’s Code covers all workers and sets standards of behaviours that go beyond physical safety to include the elimination of workplace distractions caused by hazing, harassment, bullying and discrimination
More women in trades will help fight B.C.’s high child poverty rates, and economically, help to lift women out of poverty. In 2019, the average yearly wages paid to skilled trade employees rose from $57,647 to $61,784. This is significantly higher than traditionally femaledominated employment options like childcare, administrative assistance, and bookkeeping.
Receiving training in a skilled trade typically enables women to enter the workforce faster and with less debt than careers requiring years of study at a university. Plus, working in a skilled trade offers a woman an ideal platform to eventually branch out and start her own business.
Acquiring an Industry Training Authority BC (ITA) designation such as a B.C. Certificate of Qualification or an Interprovincial Red Seal Endorsement means more than 50 skilled trades have job mobility in Canada and can move where the work is.
What’s being done to welcome more women in trades?
Retention is the biggest hurdle in the trades. Currently, the B.C. Construction Association (BCCA) estimates the firstyear retention rate for tradeswomen is less than 50% versus 70% for men.
Launched last year, the code covers all workers and sets standards of behaviour that go beyond physical safety to include the elimination of workplace distractions caused by hazing, harassment, bullying and discrimination.
It’s designed to make the workplace more inviting to women, Indigenous people, youth and new Canadians. The goal is to raise the proportion of females in the trades to 10% from 4.7% over the next decade.
A growing number of construction companies have signed the code, pledging to uphold its equality tenets to make the job site a safer place to work.
There are cultural and structural issues that haven’t made the trades particularly appealing or welcoming for women, experts say.
Challenges range from the difficulty of finding work apparel that fits to a culture of sex discrimination and other unruly workplace behaviors that deter women from continuing with a career in the trades.
Recent efforts by government and business have been implemented to attract more female employees to these careers.
BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB)
Last year, the NDP government created BCIB to handle hiring, with an emphasis on women, Indigenous people and youth, ensuring that workers receive training and apprenticeship opportunities along
with union-level wages.
Launched last year, the code covers all workers and sets standards of behaviour that go beyond physical safety to include the elimination of workplace distractions caused by hazing, harassment, bullying and discrimination. It’s designed to make the workplace more inviting to women, Indigenous people, youth and new Canadians. The goal is to raise the proportion of females in the trades to 10% from 4.7% over the next decade.
With the growing number of construction companies who have signed the code, pledging to uphold its equality tenets, the future for women in trades is evolving into workplaces that are becoming a safer place to work.