Conestoga news

June 3, 2002 1:50 PM

Conestoga College Receives Funding to Train Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology

KITCHENER/WATERLOO, ON, June 3 /CNW/ - The Ontario government announced funding today of $323,247 to Conestoga College to train women for jobs in skilled trades and information technology, said
Dianne Cunningham, Minister Responsible for Women's Issues.

The first programs of their kind in Canada, the Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program and the Information Technology Training for Women ITTW) program train women for highly paid, skilled occupations in which they are traditionally underrepresented.

"More women need to be prepared to take advantage of the career potential of IT and the skilled trades," said Ms. Cunningham. "We're taking the steps needed to address the barriers women face in breaking into these occupations."

WIST trains women to become apprentices in skilled trades such as machining and tooling, mould-making and industrial electrician while the ITTW program prepares them for IT positions as Help Desk professionals, Web developers and database administrators. Both programs combine technical training with hands-on job placements with local employers.

Conestoga College President Dr. John Tibbits said, "The skilled trades and information technology are excellent areas for career opportunity, as well as being vital to the continued growth and prosperity of the Canadian economy. Conestoga College is extremely pleased to partner with the Ontario government
in these initiatives."

"These programs create a 'win-win' for all concerned," said Ms. Cunningham. "They create opportunities for women to work in high-paying jobs, as well as supporting those industries with recognized skills shortages. As more women gain a foothold in the skilled trades and information technology industries, they will also be leading the way for other women."


Programs Create Economic Opportunities For Women

Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) is the first program of its kind in Canada. This job-training initiative, funded by the Ontario government through the Ontario Women's Directorate, has two goals:

  • to help more women to become skilled trades people.
  • to address key skills shortages in the labour market.

Creating economic opportunities for women is a key priority of the Ontario government. The skilled trades represent stable, well-paying careers, yet women are still rarely employed in them.

At the same time, there are definite skills shortages in the trades. The Ontario economy relies on a skilled work force to fuel economic growth. The Conference Board of Canada has forecast a potential shortfall of one million skilled workers by the year 2020. The Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association predicts a serious shortage of trades people, engineers, technicians and technologists in the automotive industry over the next ten years.

WIST targets the following skilled occupations in the manufacturing sector:

  • tool-and-die maker - industrial mechanic/millwright
  • general machinist - mould-maker
  • industrial electrician

The $5.8 million dollar program started as a pilot project in 1999, and has now expanded to 11 programs in seven training sites across the province. The trainees -- generally low-income women -- complete an average of 30 weeks of classroom instruction, followed by up to 20 weeks of placements with local employers where they can get on-the-job experience.

The Information Technology Training for Women (ITTW) pilot program is one of the first such initiatives in Canada - providing women in Ontario with government-funded specialized training that will qualify them for entry-level jobs in a growth industry.

While women represent 46 per cent of the overall labour force, they represent less than 30 per cent of the Information Technology (IT) workforce. The Ontario government, committed to helping more women to participate in the information technology sector, is investing $2 million over three years to train women in the fast-growing IT field.

Partnerships are the backbone of the new pilot program, with government and the private and voluntary sectors combining forces to benefit women -- and to address the issue of high-tech skills shortages.

The Information Technology Training for Women Pilot Program is now located at:

  • Conestoga College (Kitchener/Waterloo)
  • Rainbow Skills Development Centre (Ottawa)
  • Community MicroSkills Development Centre (Toronto)
  • Dixon Hall (Toronto)

All sites are community-based, non-profit training centres that offer IT training to low-income women, and women who are new immigrants. Toronto, Waterloo and Ottawa were chosen for the pilot programs because of their high concentration of IT companies.

The new training, which includes in-class training and placements with employers, is geared to women's specific needs. It incorporates preparation for the IT work environment, and a mentorship program that pairs trainees with female role models already employed in the IT field.

At the end of the entry-level IT training period, which ranges from nine to 11 months, trainees will be qualified for positions such as Webmasters, data base administrators, and help desk professionals.

At least 150 women are expected to graduate from the program over three years.

The Information Technology Training for Women program, administered by the Ontario Women's Directorate (OWD), is closely linked to:

  • the Strategic Skills Initiative of the Ministry of EconomicDevelopment and Trade
  • the Access to Opportunities Program (ATOP) of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

To learn more about the Women in Skilled Trades Program, and the Information Technology Training for Women Program visit the Ontario Women's Directorate Web site at

Contact: Rae Williams Ministry of Citizenship (416) 314-7238