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CAWIC supports next generation of women through bursary program

Angela Gismondi
CAWIC supports next generation of women through bursary program

The Canadian Association of Women in Construction’s (CAWIC) bursary program helps open doors for women in the industry, allows them to expand their network, connect with other women and progress in their careers, says the association’s director of bursary and awards.

“It will help them with their studies but also they’re going to end up being able to be a part of the CAWIC network,” said Christina Kontogeorgopoulos, adding the award winners attended a number of events this year including CAWIC’s winter social and a Women in Construction Gala hosted by the Ontario General Contractors Association and CAWIC. “They’ve been able to make some connections that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise made.

“They’re also getting to learn a lot of things from women that are seasoned that have been in the industry.”

Every year, CAWIC organizes several fundraising events and a portion of the proceeds are allocated to the bursary fund. CAWIC has been handing out bursaries for many years, but a few things have changed. Since 2021, Silver Sponsor Cooper Equipment Rentals Limited has been sponsoring $6,000 worth of trade-specific bursaries with the Cooper Equipment Rentals Limited Trade Bursary.

“One of the other things that has changed and that goes in hand with our membership levels is that anyone that signs up as a platinum sponsor, a portion of their membership fee actually goes towards a bursary in their name,” said Kontogeorgopoulos.

In 2022, 10 $2,000 bursaries were presented by CAWIC and six $1,000 bursaries sponsored by Cooper Equipment Rentals were handed out to 16 women from across Canada for a total of $26,000.

“We want to be the national voice for women,” Kontogeorgopoulos noted. “The past few years our applicants have been from across the country which has been great to see.”

Students that are enrolled in construction-related programs may apply on or before June 30 for the term beginning in September. There is a grace period to allow students time to get transcripts and references together. CAWIC’s goal is to notify every applicant whether they were awarded a bursary or not by August 30.

“We give ourselves about a month to review every single application and we do review every single application that comes in,” said Kontogeorgopoulos. “We look at the application, their back up documentation such as their cover letters, their references and we go through all of it. Then we come together as a committee and we come up with the finalists…We were just very fortunate that last year we just had so many great applications that we gave the maximum amount under CAWIC. Were hopeful we’ll be able to do it again this year.”

In terms of criteria, the applicant must identify as a woman, be a Canadian citizen or have permanent resident status and must have completed the first year of a diploma or a degree program and be enrolled in the following year. They also have to demonstrate financial need, leadership qualities and community involvement.

“A lot of these women students do end up wanting to be a champion for women in construction or at least help other women,” said Kontogeorgopoulos. “They also want to be part of the change.”

She added, “The other thing we think is important, which we did add this year in our criteria or in terms of the documentation that they have to submit in the cover letter, we do want them to describe not only their career objectives in the construction industry but also what their thoughts are on diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Although the industry is slow to change, things are shifting, Kontogeorgopoulos added.

“There are so many skilled, talented, smart women that are about to enter the industry,” she stated. “It’s great to see how bright that future can really be when you look at some of the students or the women that are either beginning, finishing or about to enter the actual workforce. It’s great so see who is interested and passionate about construction.”

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