An anecdote about “Joan the plumber” of Algonquin College and the unveiling of new funding tools to boost the entry of women into the trades and construction are examples of how federal budget 2018 could impact the construction industry.
The budget announced the creation of an Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women, a Women in Construction Fund and a new pre-apprenticeship program, which are all initiatives that are in line with government’s overall focus on gender equality and growth for the Canadian middle class.
During Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget speech, he said the nation’s future success rests on making sure all Canadians have an opportunity to work and that they have the courage “to try new things and forge new paths” like Joan, a student at Algonquin College. Joan returned to school after raising her family, he explained.
“And when she first enrolled in school, she thought she was going to study event planning. But when she got there, she changed her mind, decided she wanted to pursue a trade, and eventually became an apprentice plumber,” recalled Morneau.
“Now, Joan didn’t start off seeing a future for herself in the trades, and she’ll be the first person to tell you that that choice took many by surprise. But she also feels that it’s her true calling. It’s work that she’s good at, and it’s work that she wants to do. And she’s never looked back.”
There is a substantial gender gap in apprenticeship training, with women accounting for only 11 per cent of new registrants in inter-provincially recognized Red Seal skilled trades — Budget 2018.
Budget 2018 noted that few women choose highly skilled trades and those that do “face significant barriers to entry and advancement.”
This is why the government has announced it will allocate $19.9 million over the next five years to pilot an Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women. In BuildForce Canada’s recent 2018-2027 industry outlook, it reported that women represent approximately 4.1 per cent of Canada’s direct construction workforce. In 2018, there are just 50,000 women employed in construction compared to the over one million men in the industry.
Under this grant, women in Red Seal trades will receive $3,000 for each of their first two years of training (up to $6,000). This, in combination with the existing Apprenticeship Completion Grant valued at $2,000, will result in a combined $8,000 in support over the course of their training. Nearly 90 per cent of Red Seal trades are eligible for this new grant.
“There is a substantial gender gap in apprenticeship training, with women accounting for only 11 per cent of new registrants in inter-provincially recognized Red Seal skilled trades. This pattern of women’s under-participation in higher-paid, male-dominated trades has meant that women are not only comparatively underpaid in the trades sectors, but also wrongly perceived as uninterested in or incapable of pursuing careers in the higher-paid male-dominated fields,” budget 2018 read.
The Women in Construction Fund unveiled in budget 2018 earmarks $10 million over three years to help “build on existing models that have proven to be effective in attracting women to the trades.” The funding will be drawn from Employment and Social Development’s Canada existing funds.
This program will encourage underrepresented groups … to explore careers in the skilled trades, — Budget 2018.
According to the budget, these models “provide supports such as mentoring, coaching and tailored supports that help women to progress through their training and find and retain jobs in the trades.”
Starting in 2018-19, the government is set to fund a new Pre-Apprenticeship Program to the tune of $46 million over five years and $10 million per year thereafter.
“This program will encourage underrepresented groups — including but not limited to women, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers and persons with disabilities – to explore careers in the skilled trades. Working in partnership with provinces, territories, post-secondary institutions, training providers, unions and employers, the Pre-Apprenticeship Program will help Canadians explore the trades, gain work experience, make informed career choices and develop the skills needed to find and keep good, well-paying jobs in the trades,” explained budget 2018.