Students like NIC Aircraft Structures graduate Ali Hunt play an important role in filling demand for skilled tradespeople both in our region and around the province

Women get a boost to get into trades

There are approximately 4,200 female apprentices in 72 different trades across B.C. That’s just over 10 per cent of those registered as apprentices.

In an attempt to shrink that gap, the government announced $1.8 million last Friday for the Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative through the Industry Training Authority (ITA) to help support women in getting the skills and training they need to start a career in the trades.

Unfortunately for our region, none of this that funding is coming this way. The closest school involved in this initiative is in Victoria.

The ITA has contracted Camosun College, Okanagan College, Thompson Rivers University and Tradeworks Training Society to deliver these programs, but North Island College (NIC)’s dean of trades and technology, Cheryl O’Connell, says their enrolment of women has already been increasing at a rate of about two per cent per year recently, and they, too, are looking for ways to continue that trend.

To that end, they are exploring how they can acquire funding like that being made available in the WITT initiative to further their goals in a similar way — possibly even in the form of a dedicated female trades program within their current offerings, O’Connell says, though she can’t give any specifics at this time on what that might look like.

She says there are increasing career opportunities for women in trades both locally and across B.C. and they would like to see their enrolment numbers continue to grow to reflect that reality and match those opportunities with talented and skilled workers of both sexes.

O’Connell adds that there are many awards — bursaries and scholarships — tailored specifically for women entering the trades, as well, to help relieve some of the financial pressures of doing so.

“If we want a strong and vibrant economic future, then it is key that strong and vibrant women help drive it,” said Premier Christy Clark in the WITT release. “A great opportunity for women to help drive the economy is through careers in the skilled trades. And the Women in Trades Training initiative will help give women the support and training they need to succeed.”

“There has never been a better time for women to consider a career in the trades,” echoed federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour MaryAnn Mihychuck. “We are facing incredible economic opportunities and preparing for unprecedented demand for skilled labour over the next decade. Programs like the WITT initiative provide women with the support and resources they need to be successful if they choose to pursue a career in the trades.”

The funding for the newly-announced initiative is provided through the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund Agreement under the Employment Services and Supports stream.

For more information about the WITT initiative, head over to

Fore more about NIC’s programming, bursaries and other awards, go to