With a growing number of women looking to welding as a career choice, a new program is hoping to tap into that and help fill the labour gap.
The 16-week Women of Steel: Forging Forward program sponsored by CWB Welding Foundation is being offered at Collège Boréal’s Timmins campus, with the first classes starting in June.
The apprentice program offers women training and work experience in the field and is part of a push to promote the trades.
“By the end of it, students should be able to pass the testing to get between six and eight welding certifications,” said Christine St-Pierre, Collège Boréal project manager for trades and apprenticeships.
St-Pierre said that the demographics of their classes have shifted in the last few years, with more women pursuing education in trades like welding.
“With all these initiatives going on for women, we’ve seen a difference in our programs,” she said.
In the past, five to 10 per cent of the college’s classes were women, said St-Pierre. Now, the breakdown is 20 to 25 per cent women.
“We are seeing that change,” she said.
She said that these programs are important and that diversity within the workforce is vital.
“There are a lot of gaps, so we’re going to go get women, we’re going to go get Indigenous people, we’re going to get anyone who can come in and do the work,” said St-Pierre. “These programs are everywhere, they’re happening at all levels, in all communities.”
Michelle Mailloux, post-secondary manager at Collège Boréal, echoed that sentiment regarding the Timmins campus specifically.
“We’ve seen a lot more women taking our apprenticeship programs, and the other post-secondary programs as well,” said Mailloux.
St-Pierre said that offering training for the trades in French is a unique advantage to students who want to pursue these careers.
“It does offer a very nice opportunity for francophone students to come and follow a trade and have a post-secondary education in their own language,” she said. “We are serving our population.”
Collège Boréal is one of 14 hosts across the country for the Women of Steel program.
There are 12 spots available for the free program and Collège Boréal has some financial aid available to those who need help with living expenses.
“The program has financial help to support the students who may need extra help to complete the program,” said St-Pierre.
The course includes 12 weeks of classwork, which includes pre-employment and inclusivity training, welding workshops, and women in inspection courses, then a four-week work placement.
St-Pierre said that promoting women in these roles is an important way to fill some of the gaps in the workforce that Timmins and other northern communities are experiencing.
“That’s why we chose to put the program in Timmins, because there is such a high demand for welders,” said St-Pierre. “This program comes and answers to filling that gap, and the labour shortage that is existing and that will continue to grow if we do nothing about it.”
Applications for the program are open and can be submitted on the Collège Boréal website.
By Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 14, 2023