Economy

NWT pledges more women in trades, says new program coming


Out of 320 registered apprentices in the Northwest Territories, 15 are female. The territory says it’s taking steps to change that.

That figure was provided by employment minister RJ Simpson in the territorial legislature last week, answering questions about apprenticeships from Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson.

“Fifteen out of 320, I believe, is a statistic that shows that we’re really not tapping into a huge section of our labour pool – women who are willing to enter the trades,” said Johnson.

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“Is the minister willing to create a women in trades program?”

Simpson, responding, said his department already had plans to do so later in 2020.

“We’ve already committed to that and we’re working on that,” Simpson said on Thursday. “We hope to launch the program later this year, and it’s going to be similar to ones in Alberta and Nova Scotia, focused on getting more women in trades.

“Five percent of the registered apprentices are women. We’re missing 45 percent of the population who could be in that. It’s something that we are really trying to work on.”

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The discussion came in the run-up to International Women’s Day, celebrated on Sunday, March 8.

Johnson’s constituency assistant, Cat McGurk, is a Red Seal carpenter. Both Johnson and McGurk have been heavily involved in Yellowknife’s trades-related Makerspace program.

Simpson says a program to encourage women in trades will be rolled out as part of a broader initiative named the Apprenticeship, Trades, and Occupational Certification Strategy.

This strategy has existed in the NWT since 2017. The strategy acknowledges “a need to increase the participation and completion rates of targeted groups in apprenticeship and certification, including Aboriginal apprentices and female apprentices in non-traditional trades.”

One of the strategy’s key actions, before it expires in 2022, is to “develop and implement an initiative that will increase the number of women in the trades and occupations.”

The precise nature of that initiative has yet to be made public.

“There has been a lot of discussion. There are a lot of recommendations, and we’re working on it,” said Simpson.

“Not everything has happened, but things are happening.”

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