Conestoga news

March 18, 2019 8:06 AM

Panel discussion focuses on women in skilled trades

On March 7, Conestoga’s Engineering, Technology and Trades for Women (ETT4W) hosted the Women in Trades Mentor Forum for women enrolled in the college’s trades program. 

Conestoga College - Trades Panel 2019.JPG
A guest panel of Conestoga graduates -- all female mentors from the motive power, construction and industrial trades -- discussed the evolving role of women in skilled trades during a mentoring event at the Doon campus on March 7.

Held at the Doon campus on the evening before International Women’s Day, students in attendance had the opportunity to meet and listen to a guest panel of Conestoga graduates -- all female mentors from the motive power, construction and industrial trades who discussed the evolving role of women in skilled trades, the challenges and opportunities the trades present, and how to prepare for the transition from school to work. 

Brandi Ferenc, a graduate of Conestoga’s Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program, has worked with Johnson Controls for more than 10 years as an HVAC refrigeration mechanic and encouraged students to stay focused when faced with the challenges of being the only woman on a job site.

“Take it all in stride and stay focused on the end game,” advised Ferenc. “You’re there to do a job and you’re there to get your hours. Don’t take it personally.”

In a report released in October 2017 by the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, women account for just 4.5 per cent of skilled trade workers in Canada. 

Through gender specific programming and opportunities for mentorship, Conestoga assists and encourages women to pursue rewarding careers in the trades - in part because of the significant shortage of skilled trades workers expected in Canada in coming years. WIST is a tuition-free program delivered at the Waterloo campus that supports unemployed or underemployed women prepare for careers within the construction sector.

College events like Jill of All Trades, Go ENG Girl, Go CODE Girl, and Trades and Technology days are also held at Conestoga campuses for young women in high school to learn more about careers and opportunities in engineering, technology and the skilled trades.

During the forum, panel presenters provided advice and encouragement for the students in attendance.

“Knock on those doors, never leave your house without a resume, network and just never give up. I started out making $10 an hour and now I’m working on chillers for one of the top three companies,” said Ferenc. “For anyone who knows HVAC, not many guys get to work on that -- some guys may never even see it. Take anything and work your way up. You have to start somewhere.”

Ferenc began her career working on residential renovations while earning her gas fitter’s licence in the evening. She is now a red seal refrigeration and air conditioning systems mechanic.

Other panel members included Vania Agostino, Holly Clayson, Brenda Egberts, Jennifer Green, Alex Kiss, Jackie Morris, Jessica Seebach and Lisa Winer. 

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 and Apprenticeship for more information.