Historically, living in the industrial City of Trail hasn’t drawn a large community of women into the high paying jobs in trades or the technical fields of study.
That could change after a local women’s initiative was recognized with a $49,000 provincial grant Wednesday, that could boost the female presence in the non-traditional job market.
The funding is earmarked for the Greater Trail Skills Community Skills Centre to examine the best ways to get women into trades in the West Kootenay in a study with the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.
The project is a spin-off from Women Creating Change (WCC), which is a partnership between the Skills Centre and the Trail Family and Individual Resource Centre Society that launched two years ago after being awarded three years of funding by the Status of Women Canada to address barriers to Lower Columbia women achieving economic stability and security in the region.
The WCC’s 2013 gender-based analysis revealed that a significant way to improve opportunities for lower income women is to encourage the choice of non-traditional employment, said the Skills Centre executive director.
“With further grant money we can continue to move forward,” explained Jan Morton. “And focus on the resource, industrial and construction sectors.”
The grant money provides further opportunity to work with key employers in the area and consult with a valuable resource – women already working in those environments.
“The focus is what resources and strategies we have to put in place to support retention of women once they get into this non-traditional work,” she added.
With 86 per cent of the local female workforce tied to lower paying jobs in retail, health support, social service and the business sector, the women’s project will continue to review opportunities that encourage women to enter the male dominated trades, technical, operator and labourer positions that generally pay a higher wage.
A key pattern identified through WCC’s gender-based analysis was that women in better paying and nontraditional jobs had difficulty entering their prospective field and struggled to retain employment.
“It’s not that they can’t do the work,” said Morton. “A lot of that has to do with the cultural environment which is different from the work environment they were accustomed to.”
Prior to receiving the grant, Morton met with a number of local employers and labour leaders to introduce the project and open the table for discussion in the mostly male world.
“I was excited at how quickly people supported it and said ‘yes that makes sense, yes we are on board and yes we want to be part of that discussion.’” she said.
With the ministry’s funding that discussion will be ramped up so WCC can research what is working for women in other communities and look at a design model to suit women in the region.
“Once we have designed that then we will look at implementation down the line. We are just really excited to be moving forward and thanks to the provincial government for making it possible.”
The “Working Options for Women: Supporting Women in Non-Traditional Resource and Construction Sector Employment” study is a 33-week long look into strategies that better support women in non-traditional jobs to help address the growing shortage of workers in the resource and trades industries in Trail and the West Kootenay.