A Conestoga graduate and Alumni of Distinction honouree won a national award recognizing women making a transformational difference in their fields and working toward a more inclusive future - for the second year in a row.
Brandi Ferenc joined the Women’s Executive Network’s (WXN) 2023 list of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winners. The honour recognizes professionals from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors in 12 categories with Ferenc winning in skilled trades.
A graduate of Conestoga’s Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program, Ferenc is a licensed refrigeration mechanic/gas fitter and an HVAC instructor at Georgian College.
She mentors women in skilled trades and HVAC apprentices at Support Ontario Youth and this year started her own business, Fair-Trades Toolbox, to work with skilled trades employers, industry leaders and government on how best to on-board women into their male-dominated workforce.
Ferenc was named a Conestoga Alumni of Distinction in 2021.
Two decades into her career, Ferenc never expected to win such a prestigious award - let alone twice. She is humbled to be included among “amazing trailblazers” who are a tremendous inspiration, and joining their ranks was a big push for Ferenc to launch her business.
“I don’t know if there’s big enough words for me to describe that feeling,” Ferenc said of being honoured among such accomplished women. “They inspire me to want to reach higher.”
Ferenc started her company with the aim of facilitating real change in the skilled trades to make the industry more inclusive for women, and she has long been speaking at events to encourage young women to consider a trades career - a lucrative job with lots of opportunities.
Unfortunately, very few workers are women and Ferenc knows first-hand the challenges women face regularly on the job in the male-dominated field. “For myself, there’s been a lot of barriers.”
Lack of interest is not the issue, but rather retention.
“The skilled trades industry, it’s really not set up for women to succeed,” Ferenc said. “I think we’re ready for change.”
WXN is a member-based organization operating in Canada and the U.S that “propels and celebrates the advancement of professional women at all levels, in all sectors, and of all ages.” It offers training, events, mentoring, networking, and award and recognition programs.
The 2023 winners were feted at a gala hosted at the Fairmont Royal York Toronto on November 30.
“It takes a powerful woman to lead like a legend in her field, organization or community, and it takes a powerful woman to empower those around her to do the same,” said Sherri Stevens, owner and chief executive officer of WXN. “This year’s winners embody that power, giving us hope when we need it most, setting new bars and changing the status quo. They are legends celebrated not just for the things they do, but also how they touch the lives of others.”
Conestoga is a provincial leader in the delivery of trades and apprenticeship training to serve industry needs and our growing community. Comprehensive programming includes a wide range of post-secondary trades programs that provide pathways to employment in skilled trades careers as well as pre-apprenticeship training and in-school training for apprentices.
Visit the School of Trades & Apprenticeship for more information.