Manitoba construction industry focusing on women to fill labour gap

Manitoba’s construction sector is facing a labour shortage. In response, construction industry associations are looking to a largely untapped pool of prospective workers: Women.

“Four per cent of our skilled tradespeople are women,” said Ellowyn Nadeau, board chair of the Winnipeg Construction Association, adding that, when factoring in all professional or office roles in the sector, the percentage of women is between 12 and 14 per cent.

“With women being fifty per cent of the population, there’s a huge opportunity here for women to come in,” said Nadeau.

Most women don’t think of construction or a skilled trade as a career path, says Nadeau, and, in response, the Winnipeg Construction Association has focused on educating students and young people on the potential career paths available to them in the sector.

One major appeal, no matter your age, is the money you can make, says Nadeau.

“I think a lot of people are under the perception that construction workers don’t make a lot of money, which is completely untrue,” she said, also noting that a person can earn a salary as high as $100,000 with only five to six years of experience, depending on the trade.

Right now, Manitoba’s construction sector needs to replace about 4500 workers who are exiting the workforce to retire, according to the Manitoba Construction Sector Council.

Women can fill that gap.

“It’s not about being the biggest and strongest in the workplace,” said Carol Paul, the MCSC’s executive director, “It’s the one who thinks the smartest and is able to do the job best.”

The MCSC has also made efforts to attract more women into the industry, notably with training programs given in communities across the province.

Here in Winnipeg, a group of Indigenous women are currently going through a course to learn the ins and outs of carpentry, while also earning high school education credits through the Seven Oaks School Division.

The program is a collaboration with Clan Mothers Healing Village and Knowledge Centre.

“Women bring balance to the workplace, expertise, attention to detail, they’re organized, follow directions, and you’ll see first-hand when you meet the women at Clan Mothers,” said Paul.

For some of the participating students, the program is a path for them to achieve life-long dreams.

“I always wanted to be a carpenter and I always wanted to build stuff,” said Amanda Brown, one of the carpentry students, “Houses for my family… and build a house for myself.”

“If this was around a couple of years ago, then I definitely would have taken it,” Brown said.

Once the group completes the course, they’ll continue their education through practicums and other courses. Then, next year, they will help in building the Clan Mothers Healing Village in BĂ©lair, Manitoba.

“We’re building a healing village,” said Patricia Lagimodiere, another carpentry student, “This is what we’re made for and we’re going to do this.”

Lagimodiere always had an interest in building, which prompted her to join the carpentry program.

She hopes other women – or anyone – who may have similar interests to follow their passions and learn a skilled trade.

“Go for it,” she said, “It’s out there for you.”

“It’s no man, it’s no woman, it’s no gender. If you want to build, go build.”

Construction on the Clan Mothers Healing Village is slated to begin in spring 2023. 

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