Giving women an opportunity to succeed is at the heart of the YWCA Trades Journey Program.
“It’s a program designed to help women transition from minimum wage jobs to careers in the trade industry,” explained Shirley Bonnetrouge, Program Coordinator for the Trades Journey Program at the YWCA Employment and Learning Centre.
During the 16 week program, students are guided through an extensive learning opportunity that prepares them for jobs in the plumbing, electrical and carpentry industries. The students spend 13 weeks learning through classroom and hands-on activities at both the YWCA and Saskatchewan Polytechnic before moving to three-week job placements as part of the program.
From assessing learning and communication styles to personal fitness and resume writing, the course sets the students up for success in the workplace.
The students spend three and a half hours in the classroom each day before heading to Sask Poly Tech for an additional three hours of learning at the college. Throughout the course they will have the opportunity to experience each of the three trade areas of carpentry, plumbing and electrical.
“It’s kind of grueling and means they have to juggle their home life and day care but it also helps them adjust to a fast pace and requires them to be flexible,” said Bonnetrouge. As they would in a job situation, the students need to notify instructors in advance of any absences and take responsibility for their own learning.
By the end of the 13-week training portion of the course the students have completed tickets in First Aid and CPR; Small Space Confinement; Fall Arrest; Safety Construction Orientation Training and Workplace Hazardous Information Systems giving them the tools they need to be accepted onto a worksite.
Throughout the program each student identifies the career they are most interested in pursuing and job placements are arranged. Partner businesses are given candidate resumes from which they select students to interview for their available positions.
“These companies are willing to take the individual on for the three- week work placement and possibly hire them following the course, so we want to make sure it’s a good fit,” said Bonnetrouge. Following the completion of the course the students have the skills they need to be employed in their fields which could lead to apprenticeship and the possibility of getting their journey status.
“It’s a huge stepping stone for success for these women,” said Bonnetrouge.
The program receives as many as 100 applicants for each session which are run through a scoring system, fitness assessment and interview to determine the 15 students accepted into the program. To date, three courses have been completed and there are program graduates already in the field working as apprentices.
Sending women into fields primarily dominated by men can have its challenges but the YWCA Trades Journey Program gives graduates the skills they need to succeed. By meeting with women who have gone before them, the students have the opportunity to learn how to succeed in their chosen field.
“As women in a male-dominated environment they will be noticed. They will have to hit the ground running,” said Bonnetrouge. “We teach them how to be strong, to take initiative and prepare them so they will be noticed in a positive way.”
by Terri Eger