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Future remains bright for Women Building Futures

Last Updated Sep 26, 2019 at 10:30 am MDT

PHOTO. Women Building Futures entered a four-year agreement with the Alberta government worth $10 million. With an office in Gregoire, the Edmonton-based non-profit looks to reach more women interested in work in the skilled trades by expanding its classroom and online training to other parts of the province. Supplied by Women Building Futures.

Local non-profit Women Building Futures (WBF) received financial support from the provincial government.

The government of Alberta announced they would invest $10 million to the career-building organization over the next four years.

WBF President, Kathy Kimpton said the investment allows them to build awareness and train hundreds of women in new locations across Alberta.

“This investment means Women Building Futures is going to be able to look to the future in a sustainable way. We will be able to add more online learning and technologies to complement our face-to-face curriculum, ultimately increasing accessibility of our training programs.”

Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrious Nicolaides said they can achieve three goals.

WBF addresses staff shortages in skilled trades and empowers women to pursue rewarding careers in under-represented industries.

Finally, Nicolaides added the investment recognizes the merit and value of apprenticeship training similar to a university degree.

Headquartered in Edmonton, Alta., WBF also has its regional office located in Gregoire.

Director of Stakeholder Relations, Jacqueline Andersen said the office allows them to support women, industry partners, and the RMWB.

“We run several programs, all supported by industry within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo that prepare women for successful careers in trades and occupations.”

WBF has a 90 per cent employment rate across its programming.

Andersen said women are enthusiastic about the opportunities WBF provides to work in the industry.

She also said this encourages industry to hire women locally to develop a strong and diverse workforce.

“We know that when women gain the skills to enter the skilled workforce this has a profound impact on them, their families, communities and the economy.  This is really a win-win-win.”

Transforming lives

Andersen used the WBF’s Heavy Equipment Operator program as an example.

In partnership with Syncrude, this three-year program involves two weeks of classroom training and a 364-day paid co-op position.

“The response for this program has been excellent. Women from the region are interested in these careers and are highly motivated to get the training and go through our application process to have such a great opportunity.”

Furthermore, Andersen spoke of the pre-apprenticeship Heavy Equipment Technician program.

She said WBF provides women with four weeks of practical, hands-on skills training.

Afterwards, graduates begin a four-year apprenticeship with the non-profit’s partner employers.

Suncor is also heavily involved with WBF in the region.

The two-year Power Engineering Career Accelerator program involves pre-program training with WBF, skills training at Keyano College, and a paid co-op position.

Moreover, there is WBF’s Haul Truck Operator program.

Trainees spend nearly four weeks of classroom training before receiving three months paid training behind the wheel at Suncor’s Millenium Mine.

Kimpton said the multi-year investment is about transforming women’s lives.

With 20,000 skilled trade workers retiring in five years and 45,000 in ten, she added Alberta’s labour market would require more skilled workers.

“Sometimes a woman’s decision to choose a career or change her career path is not a quick one.  So to be able to have this ongoing support means we will be with women every step of the way.”

According to the Alberta government, women comprise 5.3 per cent total participation in construction, maintenance, and industry work.