Conestoga news

March 20, 2024 2:25 PM

Female skilled trades students, staff spotlighted in national awareness campaign

A national campaign focused on advancing workforce diversity features female Conestoga faculty and students in the skilled trades.

RBC campaign.png
A national campaign focused on advancing workforce diversity features female Conestoga faculty and students in the skilled trades.

RBC launched an awareness campaign in March to celebrate International Women’s Day all month long by spotlighting the value of attracting and retaining diverse talent.

The images and messages are being shared by the bank across all its platforms, in branch windows and on its website - with Conestoga women in a college trades workshop profiled on the initiative’s main webpage following a full-day photoshoot at the Cambridge - Reuter campus earlier this year.

The college was happy to partner with RBC on this campaign to support International Women’s Day, and looks forward to continuing the discussion on this important issue, said Joni Jean, chair in the Schools of Engineering & Technology and Trades & Apprenticeship.

“This is a great opportunity for Conestoga staff and students to represent their trades and to bring awareness to the importance of women working in underrepresented fields such as the skilled trades. Given the shortage of available workers in these industries, it is important that all people can access these careers and work in an area in which they are interested,” Jean said.

RBC is the national sponsor for Jill of All Trades, founded by Conestoga in 2014 to give young women in grades 9 through 12 hands-on experience and information about a career in the skilled trades from female mentors. The event started expanding to campuses across Canada in fall 2022, and this school year it was hosted for the first time at an American college.

The Conestoga photoshoot included two faculty and seven students outfitted with tools of the trade with the backdrop of a workshop at the Conestoga Skilled Trades Campus.

Vikki Schlonies, professor and coordinator in the plumbing department, is proud to be a part of the campaign that will hopefully help more women consider the skilled trades.

“When talking about inclusion and diversity in the trades, it isn't about hammering away at stereotypes anymore. It's about building a blueprint for equality and empowerment. Being able to participate in initiatives such as the RBC Campaign helps to promote positive role models and showcase success stories from the industry to help inspire and educate the next generation of trades.”

Beverly Roach, general machinist, technologist and part-time instructor, said it was a great opportunity to showcase how the trades are becoming more diverse, not just related to gender but also race.

“There was an amazing group of ladies who are excelling in their fields and doing an amazing job representing their trades. This was so rare to see when I started my apprenticeship. I'm just so happy I could stand alongside them and hopefully motivate more women to join a trade,” Roach said.

The photoshoot was an incredible experience for student Robyn Laframboise, who is in the Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) General Carpenter Pre-Apprenticeship program, to connect with other women in the trades who all feel called to encourage more to consider the trades.

“I still feel incredibly humbled by the opportunity to have met, and been photographed with, so many incredibly talented and inspirational women on that day,” Laframboise said. “The little moments in between sets are some of my favourite memories, as this is where we got to share what led us to pursue a career in the trades. Everyone's story was vastly different, and yet we were all on the same page when it came to wanting this photoshoot to inspire more women and non-binary individuals to see themselves represented in us and decide that they do have a bright future in the trade of their choosing.”

RBC worked with Conestoga’s Erin Caldwell, associate director of Community and Government Relations and Partnerships.

“We were pleased RBC reached out to us about Conestoga students and faculty joining the marketing campaign to promote women in the skilled trades. The trades offer tremendous opportunities for a fulfilling career and women should feel empowered to join the industry, which is in great need of trained workers,” Caldwell said.

“The campaign shows that women are able to succeed in the skilled trades and other fields that traditionally were not shown as an option to consider.”

Conestoga is a provincial leader in the delivery of trades and apprenticeship training to serve industry needs and the 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.