Women are the answer to Canada’s construction workforce challenge

Women are the answer to Canada’s construction workforce challenge

Canadian women in construction are no strangers to harsh climates and fruitless soil; however, that’s not entirely to blame on the nation’s northern geography. With the country’s labour shortages running at an all-time high, a significant opportunity presents itself in the battle for industrial and social progression in a male-dominated workforce. Women can right the scale.

Buildforce Canada projects the need for more than 300,000 new construction workers in the next 10 years for this market to stand a chance against the demand. The amount of women in construction is increasing, but not proportionately to these numbers. While women comprised more than 13 per cent of the total construction workforce in 2019, only 4.7 per cent of tradespeople working in construction were female. There’s no shortage of interest in the industry, but there is a shortage of presence in the field. One way to bridge the labour gap is by hiring more women, but the bridge must extend to the site.

Fostering women in construction

The current foundation supports predominantly gear towards fostering women in construction apprenticeships while providing mentorship, career counselling and networking connections. Most initiatives reside in the less populated areas of Canada, like Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, but the federal government also offers Apprenticeship Incentive Grants (AIGs) to women who apprentice in a Red Seal trade.

Through Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), establishing a program in 2019 to reinforce female trades participation by 30 per cent, and the government investing more than 300 million dollars for new Offices to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA), women are in a good position to strong-arm their way in.

Nailing the issue on the head

So why aren’t these measures reflected in the statistics? Women’s involvement, or lack thereof, in this industry has less to do with complex systemic barriers and more to do with the rarity of a fruitful work environment for them.

There’s power in numbers – so the solution resides primarily in empowering more women to take on the challenge, as much of a catch-22 as that implies. Some advocates also note that specific structural changes can help pave the way, like if employers make concessions for families and provide onsite daycare.

Wrapping it up with a ribbon ceremony

For every negative outlook, there’s a positive. Statistics Canada notes that for every five women enrolled in an apprenticeship program, one will choose a trade like carpentry or welding – and of those who choose this path, most will receive employment. Roads to change are being built every day, but awareness and support pave the way.

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