YWCA Toronto gets Women into Hard Hats and Steel Toes
A lot can happen when women lace up steel-toed boots. For Sheila Martinez, a graduate of YWCA Toronto’s Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry program for women, entering the skilled trades has been a life-changer.
As a single mom who has always loved to do her own plumbing, work outdoors and solve problems with her hands, carpentry was a natural fit for Sheila. Not only was the work attractive, but it was a sustainable career offering financial stability.
YWCA Toronto provides free Pre-Apprenticeship programs in partnership with George Brown and Centennial Colleges, putting women job seekers on the career path of well paid work where a woman’s salary and benefits are just the same as the man working beside her.
Women make up 25% of the Canadian electrical workforce, but many are working in administration and marketing. To push back against gender stereotypes, young women need to be encouraged to enter technical vocations as a career. The jobs are there; by 2016, the electricity industry alone will need to recruit 23,000 new workers. The tools are here; YWCA Toronto’s Pre-Apprenticeship programs get women into hard hats and steel-toed shoes with a decent pay cheque in her hand.
When Sheila completes her level 3 apprenticeship, she will earn in the range of $50 per hour, a far cry from the $13 per hour she made as a medical laboratory technician.
Sheila, a small but mighty woman, secured a job as a home-builder on a worksite with 50 men. While some of her new colleagues seemed surprised to see her there, Sheila was unfazed. “When you’re a woman in the trades,” Sheila says, “you are fearless. You are grounded.”
Not only did YWCA Toronto’s Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry program change Sheila’s life, but it also helped her model an independence and drive to her daughter that apparently has made a big impression. Her daughter wants to enter the trades as well and is pursuing a career in welding.
Sheila wants women to know that the current gender imbalance in the trades (which is shrinking every year) should not be a barrier. “Don’t be afraid that it is male-dominated,” advises Sheila. “Entering a trade will make you stronger and more independent – personally, financially and socially.”
Hear what YWCA Toronto 2014 Woman of Distinction and groundbreaking electrician Cheryl Carbis has to say about being a woman in the trades by watching the video below. To learn more about YWCA Toronto’s Pre-Apprenticeship programs for women, visit our website or check out this Flickr album of testimonials from program grads.