Conestoga news

March 27, 2024 6:42 PM

CISWP receives funding to help make skilled trades work safer and more accessible for women

Conestoga’s Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness & Performance (CISWP) has received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to advance knowledge on the impact of exoskeleton usage among the women in skilled trades workforce and develop organizational resources to improve their design and adoption.

The institute is receiving $360,000 over three years for the research that will tackle the pressing issues of workforce shortages and job turnover within the skilled trades industry.

In response to these workforce challenges, the skilled trades industry has focused on the recruitment and retention of a diverse skilled trades workforce, including the participation of underrepresented groups such as women. The skilled trades industry has set a goal of growing the total proportion of women apprentices and journeypersons from 4.5 per cent to 15 per cent by 2030.

“In order to ensure that the inclusion of diverse workforce in skilled trades is successful and sustainable, there needs to be a significant effort to ensure the work is designed safely, and the industry proactively addresses the needs of diverse workforce,” said Dr. Amin Yazdani, CISWP’s executive director.

Given existing gaps in the research discipline and the significant labour shortage in the skilled trades, there is a need for sex- and gender-focused research on the impact of advanced technologies, such as exoskeletons, in improving and sustaining the health and safety of women skilled trades workers and preventing reinjury when returning to work.

CISWP research focuses primarily on enhancing the safety and accessibility of skilled trades work for women entering the field. Additionally, “the study aims to advance understanding of the impacts of exoskeleton usage among women in the skilled trades workforce and create valuable resources to enhance inclusive design and adoption,” said Dr. Marcus Yung, CISWP director of development and operations. This research marks a significant step towards fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in the trades.

CISWP is working with more than 16 partners who will provide their expertise and experience, support recruitment of study participants, and assist the research team in mobilizing knowledge and disseminating project findings.

The outcomes of this applied research will help support exoskeleton designers and manufacturers to improve their product usability, functionality, and overall design to accommodate for all end-users. Findings will also help CISWP develop evidence-informed organizational resources for skilled trades businesses to improve the adoption of exoskeletons. CISWP will make research findings and organizational resources available to a broader skilled trades sector through their extensive network of partners.

“All partners have a vested interest in the health and safety of the women in the skilled trades workforce. We’ve heard their concerns over the challenges faced by the women in skilled trades, including ill-fitting equipment and tools, and are happy to involve them in all facets of the research process,” said Suzanne Moyer, dean, Trades & Apprenticeship, Conestoga College.

The Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness & Performance works to improve the safety, wellness, and performance of the Canadian labour force by generating knowledge, transferring research to practice, and strengthening workforce development - all in collaboration with stakeholders.

For more information, contact CISWP at