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B.C. Celebrating women in trades and technology

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the success of women in non-traditional and in-demand industries such as trades and technology.

If we want a strong and vibrant economic future, then it is key that strong and vibrant women help drive it. A great opportunity for women to help drive the economy is through careers in the skilled trades or technology sector.

B.C. has more than one million women working, nearly half of the current provincial labour force. With the addition of nearly one million job openings expected in the province by 2024, women will play an increasingly important role in keeping B.C.’s economy diverse, strong and growing.

Though not traditionally thought of as a career path for women, the skilled trades offer the possibility of rich, rewarding careers. In fact growing numbers of women are taking up the challenge of the trades and the benefits they bring – job satisfaction and great pay. To help women get these skills, government is working closely with organizations like the Industry Training Authority to support programs like Women in Trades Training (WITT).

There are currently over 3,900 female apprentices in 72 different trades throughout B.C. and the number is growing. Doors are opening throughout B.C. for women who want to pursue careers as plumbers, electricians, sheet-metal workers, carpenters or heavy equipment operators. For example, since 2008, there has been a 98% increase in the number of female welder apprentices.

Many programs are also in place to support women in technology. Examples include: Ladies Learning Code, Vancouver Women in Technology, Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, App Camp for Girls, and Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology.

In 2014, B.C. launched the Skills for Jobs Blueprint to re-engineer our education and training programs so that British Columbians can get the skills they need to be first in line for these job openings. The blueprint supports the #BCTECH Strategy and the BC Jobs Plan to encourage economic growth and to ensure that B.C. has the skilled workers necessary for the in-demand jobs of the future, including in the skilled trades and technology sectors.

Quotes:

Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour –

“There has never been a better time for women to consider a career in the trades. We are facing incredible economic opportunities and preparing for unprecedented demand for skilled labour over the next decade. Programs like the Women in Trades Training Program provide women with the support and resources they need to be successful if they choose to pursue a career in the trades.”

Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services –

“B.C. is home to many talented female tech leaders whose ambitions and creativity have helped propel our technology sector, which gives us a competitive advantage. Their contributions also serve as inspiration to women and girls seeking a career in this booming vertical, which is why I’m thrilled to highlight their significance on this very important day.”

Shannon Sejbjerg, electrical apprentice, current Women in Trades Training student –

“I was racking my brain about what I want to do when I grew up and one day I saw the WorkBC commercial and it told a story of a lady in her 30s how she became an electrician and I kind of connected with that. The best part of my job is just doing different work activities, using different tools, constantly learning.

“One of the things that appealed to me about the apprenticeship program is I wouldn’t have to be out of the workforce for very long and I’d get on-the-job paid training which is great. When I first started I just didn’t have the hand strength. The guys even said they had a tough time when they started as well and not to worry, it’ll come with the more you do the job. Thanks to WITT I was able to obtain my certification. They also supplied me with boots, jacket, tools so I had everything I needed. I just love being an electrician. I wish I had done it sooner.”

Ken Crawford, owner of Southgate Electrical, apprentice employer-sponsor –

“Shannon was hired on as a first year apprentice so she primarily works with journeymen on a number of different jobs that we do. I find that women are just as capable in this trade as men are. I don’t think physical strength for women is really that big of an issue. I’ve said to my apprentices once they’re done a task to look at it and I’d like them to be able to say ‘hey dad, or mom, look what I can do’ and be proud of their work.”

Judi Hess, CEO of Copperleaf –

“Women are a driving force for innovation in the tech sector, and we must continue to harness this potential by inspiring more women and girls to pursue careers in tech. Women have a valuable role to play in the tech sector and today serves to remind us of the need to continue to empower and inform women about the various career opportunities that exist in B.C.’s expanding tech industry.”

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2008-09, the Industry Training Authority’s Women in Trades Training (WITT) program has served more than 3,000 women.
  • There are approximately 3,964 registered women apprentices in the province across 72 different trades.
  • The percentage of women who are registered apprentices in BC is at 10.4%, up from 8.5% in 2009.
  • The technology sector directly employs more than 86,000 people, and wages for those jobs are 60% higher than B.C.’s industrial average.
  • B.C.’s technology sector is growing faster than the overall economy. In 2013, it grew at a rate of 4.7%, a higher rate than the 3.2% growth observed in the provincial economy.
  • In 2013, the technology sector added $13.9 billion to B.C.’s GDP.
  • B.C.’s 9,000 technology companies combined generated $23.3 billion in revenue in 2013.
  • New technology companies are emerging at increasing rates throughout the province. In 2013, there was an addition of more than 700 new technology companies in B.C., an increase of 8% over the prior year.

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