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SWIT launching program to give tradeswomen the tools to succeed

Grant Cameron
SWIT launching program to give tradeswomen the tools to succeed

Supporting Women in Trades (SWIT) is launching a National Leadership Development Program this fall that is aimed at providing the tools and resources to help tradeswomen and gender-diverse trades acquire skills to move up in their industry.

The online program, designed by experts, will teach female trades about self-advocacy, public speaking, conflict resolution and mentoring so they can become leaders in their workplaces and the broader skilled trades community.

In the fall cohort, 18 tradeswomen from across the country will be guided through five modules by subject matter experts and gain practical tips to empower them as leaders. It will take four months to complete.

“The program aims to build confidence so women and gender diverse individuals in the skilled trades feel empowered to apply for leadership opportunities at their companies or within their unions,” explains Emily Arrowsmith, director of research and programs at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF).

The first pilot cohort will begin in September and finish by December 2022. Another cohort has already been filled from February to May 2023. There is presently a waiting list for possible future cohorts, however women and gender-diverse individuals in the skilled trades are being encouraged to apply now.

Women or gender-diverse individuals who are in the final year of their apprenticeship or who are journeypersons may apply.

Arrowsmith says participants will learn leadership skills that will aid them in advancing their careers in various trades and industries. Participants will also receive instruction in communicating with confidence, teamwork, supervisory skills and mental health, among others.

The program provides participants an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and gain recognition within their industry. Graduates of the program may find new opportunities to use their new skills as mentors, supervisors or managers, union stewards, entrepreneurs or skilled trades advocates.

Each module will take an estimated six hours to complete. The modules involve interactive exercises for the participants, so they have opportunities to learn and to reflect upon their own experiences and clarify any issues.

The modules are principles of leadership; communicating with confidence; teamwork, mentoring and conflict resolution; supervisory and management skills; and mental health and well-being. Participants must finish all five modules to be recognized as having completed the program.

Modules will be taped in advance to allow for self-paced online learning.

Learning materials and content will be provided through the online platform. Throughout the program, participants will share ideas in discussion posts and journal entries. A facilitator and coach will be available to offer support and active participation will be encouraged. The program culminates in a final assignment based on course content.

The full program will take approximately four months to complete. A group session will be scheduled by a facilitator at the end of each individual module to clarify and discuss key issues. When the first cohort has completed the course, the tradeswomen will then participate in a final two-hour virtual group session.

Arrowsmith says participants can learn at their own pace over the four-month period and the group sessions will allow participants to ask questions, discuss issues of concern and network as a group.

“Participants will be asked to reflect upon what they learned throughout the program and their own leadership skill strengths and gaps through a verbal presentation or a written paper,” she says. “If the women complete all the sessions and the presentation or paper, they will receive a certificate from CAF-FCA.”

All modules were designed by instructors who have years of experience working in the skilled trades sector. Tradeswomen coaches are participating in the discussions and providing additional supports.

With improved skills in key areas, participants will gain the confidence to take on leadership roles on the jobsite and within their unions.

The first cohort filled up quickly and a second one was set up to accommodate the influx of interested individuals.

Arrowsmith says many women and gender-diverse apprentices and journeypersons have limited access to leadership training programs such as self-advocacy, public speaking, conflict resolution and mentoring for a number of reasons.

They are often isolated on the job, there is a lack of mentorship and support, and they are not offered the same opportunities because their male colleagues are perceived as having a greater chance of success in the field, she says. They also are not encouraged and supported to apply for leadership opportunities.

The CAF says women and gender-diverse people from multiple marginalized backgrounds face distinct barriers in accessing training to help them succeed. It is encouraging those from diverse backgrounds, who are newcomers, identify as 2SLGBTQ+, have a disability, or who are Indigenous, or a person of colour, to apply.

Applications for the program are being accepted on an ongoing basis as

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