Campus Life  

Women in Trades program breathes fresh air into career aspirations

Okanagan College Media Release

Remodelling a bathroom or putting down laminate flooring might be a weekend pastime for some women, but it could also be a sign of a new career.

That’s exactly what led two Okanagan women to sign up for Okanagan College’s Gateway to the Building Trades for Women Program – a 12-week course that introduces women to a wide range of trades from carpentry and joinery, to plumbing, electrical, drywall, roofing and even automotive service.

“I had done a lot of home renovations – put in a couple of laminate floors and hardwood floors and I like carpentry work,” said Summerland resident Kim Small, who entered the program in 2009.

“I felt like I had won the lottery. I just loved it. It was especially great that they didn’t hold age against me,” she said, admitting she belongs to the over 50 set. “I learned skills in electrical, carpentry, roofing – I absolutely hated welding, but there were other women who loved it, and at the end of three months I got to pick a trade and decided to take the RV Service Technician program.”

Small got hooked on the idea of trades after attending an information session at Okanagan College. New sessions are taking place in Vernon on Jan. 25 and Feb. 21 (5:30 p.m.), and in Penticton on Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 (5:30 p.m.) in preparation for the new program intakes starting in April.

Like Small, 43-year-old Danielle Boileau of Vernon also enjoys home renovations. She considers herself among the “inner circle” at her local hardware store and was thrilled to find a hand router and new table saw under the Christmas tree this year.

Boileau worked in retail and owned a souvenir shop in Whistler before she moved to the Okanagan. Last fall she heard about the Women in Trades program, signed up, tried out all the various trades and is now enrolled in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic program in Penticton.

“There are not a lot of women in that field and there seems to be a demand for it,” she said. “I like the practical side of being in a trade, and the instructors were all great.”

The Gateway program provides students with practical employment skills plus industry recognized certificates. Eligible women are unemployed or underemployed, and not eligible for Employment Insurance benefits. Eligible students will be granted an interview and if they are accepted into the program would be eligible to receive student financial support for tuition, books, tools, personal protective equipment and clothing for the program.

Funding for the 12-week program is supported by the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development as provided by the Canada-B.C. Labour Market Agreement.

For more information or to register, please contact Coordinator Jen Hamilton at 250-575-6194 or email [email protected].

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