Exploratory Courses in Trades and Technology for Women




                                               by Marcia Braundy





                            Originally published as an Occasional Paper


                         by the Canadian Vocational Association in 1992




Streaming has been an accepted philosophy in educational circles.  It has been based upon, and has resulted in, the gender stereotyping of most occupations into men's jobs and women's jobs.  The demographic picture of the next twenty years demands that we use all of our potential workers in the most broad range of occupations.  Streaming has ensured that not all of these potential workers have been well-prepared to work in technical fields.  Special measures must be undertaken to ensure that those women who have been denied exposure to and prior experience with mechanical tools and materials, are given sufficient orientation training to enable them to develop the skills, confidence and background necessary to become successful workers and managers in technical occupations. 


This paper provides both a rationale for expanding our views of who is needed to make up the Canadian Labour Force, and an analysis of effective programming developed to move women out of traditional streams based on gender into fields that have been traditionally male-dominated.  It will address the learning needs of women as they move into exploratory and technical/vocational training, and on into occupations and jobs that will provide economic sustenance, worklife satisfaction and needed skills for the Canadian economy.



Let's start with a short demographic picture:  From 1970 to 1985, there were 300,000 new entrants to the labour market every year. [1] The baby boomers were entering the world of work in force.  Along with this trend, women were entering the labour market in greater numbers than in the past, and were staying, taking only short leaves - less than a year[2] - for childbearing and rearing. Canadian industry had many workers from which to choose. 


In 1990, there were approximately 180,000 new entrants to the labour market, just a little over half what existed in the 70s and '80s.[3] That number will decline every year until 2010. The 1990's entrants have a much more diverse make-up.  The baby boomers have had fewer children, there was a significant growth in single parent families and many of Canada's immigrants have come from areas other than Europe. The majority of new entrants do not look like the traditional white males who had made up the bulk of the skilled and semi-skilled Canadian workforce for many decades.[4]  Women, visible minorities, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities now make up a vast majority of the new entrants to the Canadian labour force.


Many of these new entrants are adult learners. They are women who are re-entering the labour force after long absences or who find themselves unable to support a family on the traditional low wages of unskilled, often part-time, work to which women have been relegated in the past. They are Aboriginal people who are developing more skills which will enhance their abilities to manage their own affairs effectively.  In B.C., 25% of the new entrants during the nineties will be native youth[5], probably similar numbers in the rest of Western Canada[6]. They are immigrants, both women and men, who for social or political reasons find themselves in a new and foreign country. 






Regardless of the reasons, the reality is that integrating these new workers has become more than a social justice issue.  It is an economic necessity.  This integration process will be one of the major challenges facing adult educators in the 1990s.


We must not only educate, but we must also re-educate: both our students and ourselves.  And we must train for skills needed right across the country, as we face the aging and "middle aging" of our skilled workforce.[7]  While the service sector, with its low paying, dead-end jobs is the fastest growing sector of the economy, it is also true that close to half the jobs being created today will require 4-5 years combined education and training beyond high school.[8]


"New manufacturing industries that rely on advanced production technologies and knowledge -intensive activities will have different labour requirements than the older industries they will be replacing.....There will be less need for semi-skilled or unskilled workers in manufacturing.  There will be more demand for skilled technical and tradespeople."[9]


The country goes in and out of recession regularly. But the fact is when we didn't train during the last recession, even though the demographic issues were clear at that time[10], as soon as we started to move out of the recession, there were shortages of skilled workers experienced in almost every city and rural area in Canada[11].  While other countries are competing for a portion of the world markets with Canada, Canadian employers will be competing with each other for the shrinking numbers of workers, and particularly trained and skilled workers.


"Canada's continued economic growth will require a constant supply of well-trained individuals if a skills gap is to be avoided.  Successful management of change thus requires increased attention to all forms of education, training and retraining."[12]


It is essential that we do not waste the opportunity to develop and maintain our competitive edge and cooperative potential with other leading industrialized countries.  We must train and utilize the capabilities of all Canadians as well as those who have immigrated here with either differing or un-recognized credentials.  "Firms wishing to ensure a steady supply of labour in future may be advised to seek our these "non-traditional" sources of labour through the provision of training and working conditions that are attractive to these kinds of workers."[13]




We are entering a relatively new phase of workforce development.  Recognizing the strength of these factors, EIC, supported by the Canadian Labour Force Development Board, has been negotiating the new sets of training agreements with the Provinces.  Those that have been signed outline some specific objectives to increase the participation of women in occupations in trades, technology, operations and blue collar work.   If training institutions are interested in accessing some of the training dollars that will be tied to these initiatives, it will be necessary to modify some of the traditionally held views of what makes appropriate training. 


Special measures must be undertaken to ensure that those women who have been denied exposure and prior experience with mechanical tools and materials, are given sufficient orientation training to enable them to develop the skills, confidence and background necessary to become successful workers and managers in technical occupations.  They must address the other barriers that women experience - the multiple roles women play as workers and caregivers; the realities of poverty and childcare responsibilities that circumscribe women's lives; gender stereotyping and women's often limited experience with trades, technical and operational (TTO) work.[14] 


The overall training needs of designated groups must be met, along with the specific technical skills.  To be successful, sponsors of programming must recognize the differing needs. They must develop, in consultation with WITT or other designated group representatives, adequate preparatory training, support and follow-up for women, as well as for members of other designated groups, either exploring or entering trades and technical training. 


In this paper, I will focus on issues particular to women.  Many of the circumstances, programs and initiatives described also pertain to  members of other designated groups, but it cannot be assumed that what is described here is adequate to meet the needs of women or men who are faced with other disadvantages.  These must be examined and measures developed to address each situation.





Traditionally, women have not been encouraged to develop career goals in the same way that men have.  Their expectations of themselves and the world of work were moulded to be fairly low, based on the assumption that Prince Charming would come along and take care of all their worldly needs.  Now we know that more than 42% of all women who work are heads of their own households, single women and single parent families.  "Contrary to popular opinion, women are not working part-time for 'pin money', but are making a significant contribution to the financial well-being of their families. Seven out of ten women in the labour force are working full-time and contribute an average of 40% of family income.  Those working part-time contribute 23% of family income. Without this second salary, 61% more families would fall below the poverty line.[15]  We know that the participation rate for women in Canada with children under three is 58.3%.  Most women work 30 - 50 years in the paid labour force.  With this information in mind, it becomes imperative that we begin to look at women's involvement in the world of work in terms of a career, one that will see them through their lives with real economic stability, rather than as previously thought, just getting a "job" that will "see them through until they get married or have children...."  In 1988, 74.9% of all Canadian women between the ages of 25 and 34 worked in the paid labour force.[16] In 1970, women were 34% of the Canadian labour force.  In 1988, women  were 44% of the total labour force.[17]  Most projections indicate that by the year 2000, women and men will each make up half of the Canadian workforce.




It seems simple to say, "well then, here is an important source of untapped or underdeveloped human resources to fill our requirements for skilled workers". At the same time we could reduce the social costs created by the fact that a large percentage of those women are working in the lowest paying clerical and service sector jobs[18], often the jobs that are being eliminated through technological change and office automation.  Many women are coming from situations of having been on social assistance for long periods, or perhaps have found themselves as sole-support parents after years of being a homemaker. It makes sense to look to this group as part of the solution to labour market issues while at the same time solving their own economic needs.  


But it is not that simple, because often, women have not had the preparatory training that would enable them to be successful workers in technical or blue collar fields.  Streaming at earlier stages has tracked them away from the basic knowledge in maths and science and tool skills training that would have prepared them to be ready for this opportunity.  Early socialization has trained them to think about the products of their productive lives in very different ways.[19]  In order for many women to consider, then train and become qualified in technical and operational fields, they need to understand what it is, and how the skills that they have developed in their lives can be transferred into this new sphere.[20]


Not all women need this pre-training, some go quite effectively into technical training and onto the job without it.  The initiatives I will be describing are not necessarily for them, but we can all benefit from new ways of approaching this integration process.  For those who will benefit, it is essential that all of the necessary elements are provided in these exploratory and pre-trades and technology courses.


Women's socialization process in Canada has ensured that they, for the most part, have not received basic orientation to tools and technical skills or developed the personal skills to operate effectively in male-dominated workplaces.[21]  It is time for us to recognize and acknowledge the differing needs of women who want to become successfully integrated into all aspects of the trades and technical training, and ultimately into the technical or blue collar workforce.  These needs will not be met solely by trying to change the women to fit the regular technical courses an institution already offers.  They will be effectively met only when training hosts recognize that women need not only additional, but sometimes very different preparation to become successful trades and technical workers for Canada.  The profile of men who make successful tradespeople differs significantly from the profile of women who make successful trades or technical workers.[22]


Often men benefit as well from some modification of teaching and learning styles.  Carol Brooks and Susan Booth discovered that some 93% of females in WITT exploratory courses in Ontario, and some 60% of men are "relational" learners.[23]  Relationally-centred learners do best when they are able to: interact with other, relate personally to the instructor and other learners;  start from their personal point of view and experience, build on and generalize from that; express their feelings; feel relaxed; receive personal positive feedback; have variety in the learning situation; use their creative abilities as a learning tool.[24]  The learning environment must allow for a lot of personal attention from the instructors.  The instructors must discover and respect learners' prior knowledge and experience.  This can only happen in small groups and fairly informal settings.  Most bridging programs try to provide these conditions.[25]  Both women and men can benefit from these more flexible teaching strategies.[26]


As Canadian demographics indicate, we are going to need to train and qualify both women, and men of traditionally different backgrounds, for our skilled workforce.  It is up to skills training colleges and institutes to lead the way in preparing us all for the occupations necessary to keep Canada competitive in the world economy.


This means actively pursuing understanding the differing needs of women learners, and developing appropriate programming to move women out of the traditional streams into which they have been funnelled from elementary school, through secondary school and into mainstream trades and technical education.  This means, as well, developing an outreach program to bring them into your institution, and a support system to assist them in staying.  It means assisting instructors to develop more flexibility in teaching strategies and a better understanding of how to address issues that may come up in the classroom.




The March, 1991 issue of Chatelaine describes low self-esteem as one of the most significant problems facing young women today.  Most of us can confirm that this does not go away as women get older...in fact, it often compounds, building on experiences that become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Career aspirations are often affected.  Intervention must be undertaken to expand both self-concept and career aspirations.  Attendance at a bridging or WITT exploratory program can provide that intervention.


A 1989 national study showed that one of the most significant benefits of Women In Trades and Technology exploratory courses was the high increase in self-esteem and confidence experienced by the participants.[27] 


In that survey, contracted by Employment and Immigration Canada, of the graduates of these pre-trades and technology exploratory programs,  75% of the respondents had gone on to further training in a trade or technical area. 63% of all of those surveyed were employed and 46% of those were working in a trade or technical area at the time of the survey.[28]  Many of the others had described a job search that would break your heart before they made the choice to pursue employment in clerical or service  sectors, or blue collar work not associated with their training.  But even those women who had gone on to more traditional occupations said that it was the confidence gained from the course that had enabled them to seek out and be hired to do those jobs. 


Many of those interviewed made it very clear that it was not just the assertiveness training, problem solving or self-esteem building workshops incorporated in the training that made the difference.  It was the hands-on exploratory in the shops, the tool identification and learning how to use the tools safely and effectively.  They attributed their labour force success to the competency base that came from tool skill development as well as the development of personal skills and resources to manage the new work environments.




Over the years, a number of different exploratory courses have been developed at various colleges across the country.  They vary in length, and they especially vary in the depth at which technical theory and practical tools skills are incorporated into the curriculum.  Sometimes this is due to factors such as trying to operate in a more rural environment or to fiscal-year time factors, and sometimes it has been due to a lack of understanding of the value of the hands-on portion.  In other cases, only the hands-on portion is provided, leaving out the life skills, personal and occupational fitness development.  It is clear from the many outlines and evaluations I have read from courses across the country that all aspects are essential.  Some people call these "bridging programs".[29]


"Bridging Programs are affirmative action programs.  They compensate for inadequacies in people's earlier education or learning.  They assume that people were unable to acquire necessary information or skills earlier because of socio-economic circumstances or membership in a particular group.  Bridging programs are meant to provide some compensation for systemic barriers in formal and informal education.  They aim to 'level the playing field', to alleviate systemic disadvantages and to assist in gaining access to, or in successfully completing training and job searching."[30]


I would like to distinguish here between Bridging Programs per se, and WITT type exploratory courses. Bridging Programs, generally, are those that assist people, often women, who are entering or re-entering the labour force, to develop life skills, career planning and job search skills.  Often, academic upgrading is built in, to allow for the development of entry level requirements for a chosen occupational field.  Although the idea of pursuing a career in a trade, technical or blue collar job may be introduced, it is not explored in depth.  There is usually some emphasis placed on Computer Literacy, but more of the focus is on Self-Assessment, Communication skills,  Job Market Research, Decision Making and Goal Setting, Assertiveness, Managing the Requirements of Home and Work, and Problem Solving. There is usually a Work Placement component to put some of these newly learned skills into action.  The idea is to create a "Bridge" from home, or minimal labour force attachment, to either training or employment of some kind.


This is a particularly useful course for women who have been on Social Assistance for a long period, and need to build up their personal growth and academic skills.


WITT exploratory courses contain most of the units described for Bridging Programs. But they focus more particulary on Examining Labour Market Trends and Employment Opportunities in Trades and Technology, actually Developing Occupational Fitness, Safe Work Practices, and on theory and practical expertise in a variety of trades and technical areas.  These would include many of the components that are useful across the technical areas - for example: Processing Technical Information, Drafting and Blueprint reading, and Using Basic Measuring, Layout, Hand and Power Tools in Carpentry, Electrical, Metal, Mechanics, Robotics, Forestry shops, truck driving, building maintenance, etc. - and areas in the technologies where women have also been previously under-represented i.e. electronics, computers, construction and forest technologies, aerospace, and others.  A course might feature 4 or 5 of these technical subject areas in some detail, depending on the local/regional industrial requirements.  At the same time, the students would be learning about the responsibilities and rights of workers and employers on the job, Industrial Health and Safety, Overcoming Societal Barriers that may be encountered, Human Rights and Employment Equity Legislation and other realities of the industrial workplace.[31]


In WITT courses, there are often tours of construction sites and industrial workplaces, and films and discussions with women who have effectively entered these occupations.  These are role models who can describe the joys and sense of tangible accomplishments as well as the challenges, and how best to prepare for them.  The students have at least one and sometimes more 3-4 week work experiences on-the-job, to get a strong understanding of the requirements of that occupational area.  These are not Powder Puff courses, and must be given access to the Institutional resources and facilities to become the rigorous training ground necessary to prepare women to work successfully in trades, technology and operations (TTO) work.[32] 


Successful courses are 5-6 months in length, full-time, and by the end the women are prepared to make an informed career decision about which, if any, trade or technical training area she wants to pursue, or what other area might be of greater interest.  Because she has had the opportunity to climb the scaffolding, work with the men, work in the grease, the tools, the wiring, in the forest, with the transistors, the robots, etc.,  the choice she makes to enter further technical training will be a committed one.  If she decides that the skills or the environment are beyond her present capabilities, and decides to set her sights in another direction, and goes to work as a bus or truck driver, a correctional officer, a groundskeeper,  a teacher's aide, a clerk, is that any less of a success?  But the reality is that 63% of the women who went through exploratory courses (1983-1987) were employed a the time of the survey (1988) and another 12.8% were still enroled in training.[33]


In almost all the reviews and evaluations, including the larger, broader, more in-depth studies done most recently nationally by Kootenay WITT, and at Durham College, and the 1991 Evaluation by of the Nowskills Program by Learning Resources in Vancouver, these courses are clearly successful at what they set out to accomplish.  Yet, they have been the first courses to be eliminated when funding became scarcer, and often the evaluations/recommendations-for-improvement sit on a shelf gathering dust, awaiting a new surge of energy to develop the next ad hoc course.  For those courses that have been offered, except for Ontario, are generally provided on a very ad hoc basis. There has been no continuity of program or staff which would have allowed women, who went out to train and work, a basis for on-going support in the challenges they encountered on the job.  If there was one similar criticism in all the evaluations, it was the lack of follow up and ongoing support.




The importance of role models of successful women workers in technical areas cannot be stressed enough.  As well as having working women address the students during a classroom panel, or during occupational research, or through films and videos, it is also important for the students to work with women who are competent with tools.


Some colleges, particularly in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba, have hired women with trades or technical qualifications to coordinate the courses, instruct in their areas of expertise, and assist the regular instructors in hands-on training in the other technical shops.  Some courses are coordinated by individuals with life skills training backgrounds.  In some of the courses offered in Ontario, a tradeswoman or technologist works as a part of a team, coordinating the program with a life skills coach.  The women students fare better because they see a woman using the tools and showing them how.  Many women who have become skilled at a particular trade have tinkered in a number of fields until satisfied that the one chosen would suit for a career.  Often, women now involved in technical fields came from a background in communications/social work/etc, and also have the ability to coordinate and instruct. 


If the person were hired on a full-time, permanent basis, there would be ongoing follow up and support for graduates.  Her job would include participant selection, life skills, &/or tool orientation, assisting vocational/technical instructors in the shops, organizing work placements and follow-up -clearly a full time job, and a very important role model to the female, and male student population at a vocational institution.  She should be someone who has had real on-the-job experience in industry, so that she can bring to the students a good understanding of what the workplace is like, and what some of her coping strategies have been in overcoming barriers encountered.


As well, it would be useful to have a full-time women's advocate whose job it would be to provide advocacy and a support system to women as they go into technical courses throughout the institution.  EIC personnel have indicated that this is something that could be funded under the Employment Assistance Option of EIC's training funds.





Most programs offered are full-time day programs that meet the needs of a certain portion of the population.  Often, if she finds a cooperative counsellor, a woman can obtain financial assistance from Employment and Immigration Canada (EIC) or Social Assistance to attend.  This can work well, especially under the new EIC training policy regulations, for the unemployed, those re-entering the workforce after a long absence and the employment disadvantaged.  For the most part, those who have proven most successful in using the opportunity provided by the program, the those working at low-paying dead-end jobs, have not been able to gain access to assistance to attend full-time.


Women with small children, limited income, cultural barriers, and those underemployed and unable to leave their jobs to explore other options do not have access to these programs.  There is a need for some bridging programs to be made available on a part-time and flexible basis; delivered in a half-day, weekend &/or evening format.[34]  At BCIT this has proven to be an excellent source of new students.  It is an avenue for working women who are already "job ready" to move directly into technical training after completing a shorter, less in-depth orientation training.


Programs that are multi-dimensional, where women can access the needed skills without being locked into a set program are also being explored.  This can provide an opportunity for a woman with high life-skills to participate primarily in the hands-on skills training and career exploration, and only in the sections of life skills needed.  This is being explored by the WISE Program, sponsored by the Canadian Congress on Learning Opportunities for Women (CCLOW) and the Association for Lifelong Learning in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, and Bridging Programs for Women, which was sponsored by CCLOW at Regina Plains College in Saskatchewan.





Sometimes these courses have been referred to or named as introductions to "non-traditional occupations for women".  The WITT National Network has been actively advocating for a change in that terminology.  Since men have been doing these jobs for years, referring to them as "non-traditional" only when women do them sets those women apart as if they don't really belong.  Many young women do not want to be "non-traditional", they want to be just like everyone else, but they would like to earn more money! 


It is still not easy to find a comfortable term to refer to the broad range of occupations we are trying to identify.  After much discussion, the national organization decided to call itself the WITT National Network, and state that it is advocating for women in trades, technology, operations and blue collar work.  A short form to refer to the work might be as TTO jobs: trades, technical and operations.  Not perfect, but much better than what it replaces.  If you are trying to attract women and girls to a career, it is a good idea to describe the work, rather than the characteristics of the women doing the work.






A relatively small number of these courses are regular offerings at community colleges around the country - more in Ontario than anywhere, but those were cut back severely several years ago.  As the new training agreements are being signed, there may be a growing number of these courses planned, as important equity initiatives.  The colleges and institutes, themselves, may decide to sponsor the program.  They may work together with community-based advocacy groups to ensure the appropriate elements are included in the course profile.  They may work with unions or employer associations driven by demographics or equity considerations to expand their potential workforce.  In some areas, community-based groups may decide to sponsor the courses, perhaps buying space at the college, perhaps using the facilities of local businesses or secondary schools.  If public training institutions want to maintain their role as the major providers of training, it will be important to forge links with community-based organizations representing the designated groups.






It is important to bring all the players with information, knowledge and resources to the table to discuss curriculum development and implementation.  When the National Task Force on Apprenticeship met for many months during 1989/90 to discuss the labour market issues mentioned earlier, consensus was reached on the need for WITT exploratory courses.  It was recommended that these courses be set up in every college in the country.  These industry leaders, the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Canadian Federation of Labour,  the Canadian Construction Association, IWA - Canada, the Building Trades, the Canadian Manufacturers Assoc. and others together with WITT's National Coordinator also recommended that these courses have Advisory Committees at each institution, made up of representatives of unions, employers, WITT advocates and educators, to ensure that everyone who had a part to play in the successful training and integration of women in these courses and on to the job was able to have input into course development.[35]  This can also ensure that when the time comes for women to enter the work experience portion of the course, the support and networks of the industry are already engaged, and invested in the potential success of the program.


There is a new twist developing in sponsoring and putting on courses to get more women into  industry.  This is being driven by two factors.  One is the skill shortage factor mentioned earlier, and the other is a desire to be perceived as acting in a voluntary manner to increase the numbers  of women, particularly in the construction industry.  As the review process for the Employment Equity Legislation develops momentum, there is a strong industry lobby to maintain Construction's exemption from compliance under the legislation or the Federal Contractor's Program.  This is not inherently a negative force, though the potential for inadequate program responses is a concern. 

Because each union or industry group sees only the shortages in their area, there is a tendency to run a "pre-apprenticeship" course in one specific trade area.  Often, that is the only course available for women even vaguely interested to TTO occupations.  Therefore, many women either opt in or are strongly encouraged or directed to pursue training in that particular course, to fill the space,  without having had the background to make an informed career choice.  This can lead to a high drop-out rate as the women engage in technical training without the necessary supports and background.


We often have industry representatives who are familiar with the technical training of workers in their field, who may be unwilling to believe there may be differing learning needs when teaching groups of women.  They may not understand the need for introductory or exploratory training, or if they do, they may not understand the time frames required to build personal skills and occupational fitness.  Sometimes, they are reluctant to allow women the opportunity to learn in groups with only women, and feel the women would benefit most quickly from being placed at least half and half in regular technical training courses with male student learners almost immediately,  with one month or less of orientation training by themselves.  The "sink or swim" model.  This is also seen as easier for institutions who believe they can fit the women into their regularly scheduled classes, and have few modifications to make.  Often, these industry representatives believe they know more about what is necessary than those who are experienced in addressing women's learning needs.  And they do know a great deal about what technical training is required.  Their limitations may be in understanding what else is necessary.  This can lead to significant difficulties for the women and for the instructors/administrators.[36]  The importance of working together to build programs that will result in success for all cannot be stressed enough.  That is where an Advisory Committee with all the appropriate players can be very effective. WITT advocates and WITT instructors can bring perspective on women's learning needs to the table.




The reality is that many of the women who come into the programs don't yet have the background to be on equal footing with the men, and many traditional roles and expectations get played out on the shop floor and during work experiences.  These inequalities include lack of tool knowledge, lack of physical fitness, lack of math background etc.[37]   This can be solved by having a 3-5 month exploratory and/or orientation component at the beginning of the course, and a waitlist of ready applicants to fill any spaces that are vacated.  (The drop-out rates in most of the exploratory courses in Canada throughout the 1980's was 6-12%.[38]  The number seems to be much higher in the industry sponsored courses, with as many as 75% of the women choosing not to go into the field.[39] Comparable success rates for courses which also offer the additional life skills, personal development and occupational fitness indicate that approximately 75% choose to continue training and seek employment in technical fields.[40]


There are also some strong benefits of industry sponsored training programs.  The Canadian Construction Association has been implementing the CLMPC recommendation, having sponsored a number of courses at colleges in Ontario, and plans to sponsor several others in provinces across the country.  A review and evaluation of the Ontario courses will be available from October at the CCA office in Ottawa.  It will be interesting to note their findings. One of the strong benefits of industry sponsored training is the potential for jobs at the completion of training.  The Carpenters Union in B.C. and in Ontario have sponsored specific courses for women in Carpentry.  In B.C. the women who completed were guaranteed a place in the union.  Currently, 9 are carpentry apprentices working on construction sites in the Lower Mainland. 


Another model that has been developed and has proven very successful comes from the City of Toronto. "Bridges" was initially developed for in-house use to move interested women from clerical to technical occupations.[41]  The 13 women chosen for the pilot left their regular workplaces one day a week, to participate in an orientation program which included physical fitness, tours of potential TTO worksites at the city, role model presentations, understanding the potential barriers  and developing personal skills to manage and overcome them.  After several months of that, they entered full time shop work at George Brown College, learning tools and hands-on skills in a variety of technical fields.  At the end of three weeks, they went into a full-time work experience, chosen by themselves, in a shop area of the City that had been identified by the manager as having potential for opening in the next 2-3 years.  After another three weeks they went back to their original job to await an opportunity to bid on the job they had tried.  At the six month evaluation of the program, 9 of the 13 were already working in their new jobs.


This model has been expanded and offered by the City to private sector employers in Toronto.  Unitel, Rogers Cable, Consumers Gas, AT &T  and others have all graduated employees through the program.[42]  Syncrude Oil in Ft. McMurry, Alberta has also worked with the Bridges staff, and have recently finished a program where they committed to training and apprenticeship placements before the women entered the training, and now have 12 women working out well in their operations.


All of these programs have recognized that there are a number of required elements to ensure success.  For those programs that are dealing with women already working in the company, there may be less time needed to be spend in units like "Managing the Requirements of Home and Work", "Develop and Apply Problem-Solving Strategies" or "Managing Child Care".  But some understanding of "The Position of Women In The Labour Force" or "Develop Strategies for Overcoming Societal Barriers", "Develop and Practice Assertive Skills", and "Examine Labour Market Trends and Training and Employment Opportunities in Trades and Technology" are essential components for everyone.





And yes , it is true that often men can benefit from Assertiveness Training and Communication Skills Building.  But until men and women gain the benefit of those lessons, it is difficult for them to learn these new skills together. "It is important that the students test out their learning in situations where they will be judged against themselves, rather than the man standing next to them who may be at a very different place in his development.  Women at similar stages of learning, competing and co-operating with each other can provide a healthy and productive atmosphere to grow in.  Once a woman has achieved some general mastery, she is then ready to enter training and employment on a more equal footing."


At one institution where a review/analysis had been done with the male instructors of a 50/50 pre-apprenticeship program in a particular trades area,  it was suggested that the female students held the male students back, and made excessive demands on the time and attention of the instructors.  It is painful to think about how the women were made to feel, however unintentionally, although there were positive comments on how the male students felt good and could shine  when they "taught" the female students. After the review, the instructors were provided with the volume, Instructor's Handbook: Working With Female Relational Learners in Technology and Trades Training  by Carol Brooks, Ph.D.  Several of them commented that it lead to greater understanding of the circumstances they had encountered in their classrooms.  Under "How to improve the program next time", one of the comments specifically suggested that we need to "help women develop more confidence with their hand skills before they start [the program], probably extending the orientation," "more fitness training "    and counselling support.  They also felt it was "important for instructors to have information on how to build an appropriate, 'non-traditional' relationship with women students."[43] 









In order to effectively meet the challenge presented by both demographics and a competitive economy, we need to expand our thinking about both who we are training, and how we are training them.  As we move into training more women and other designated groups in technical occupations, there must be a recognition of the differing learning styles and training needs of the students.  Clearly, there is education that can take place on both sides, learning that will sustain both the male students and instructors, and the women.  However, it is vitally important that the women receive the pre-training they need to assist them to operate effectively, on more equal footing as they go on into the regular technical classrooms.  For many, that is most successfully accomplished in an initial supportive training environment for developing both life skills and some competency with tools with other women, and going into scheduled work experience in industry.  For this whole training course, the goals are:


          1) To introduce women students to the range of possible occupations in trades and technology fields.

          2) To develop strategies for dealing with the multiple roles of working women.

          3) To provide academic upgrading in math, science and communication skills to enable participants to pursue further training and employment options.

          4) To provide in-depth exploration and skill development in a wide range of Trades and Technologies.

          5) To provide labour market information, career planning, assertiveness training, and job search skills to assist students to make informed career choices.

          6) To provide hands on use of hand tools and power tools in a training shop setting.

          7) To provide hands-on work experience in industry assuring realistic consideration of potential work environments and the students' abilities to adapt to those situations.

          8) To provide basic background in group format necessary for students to enter regular trades and technical programs.

          9) To provide sustained and effective support throughout the entire transition from home, unemployment, or underemployment to a training program or appropriate employment in a job with a salary sufficient for the economic responsibilities of the participant.


Achieving these goals will meet the following objectives:

          1) The employment potential of participants will be increased especially in trades and technology areas.

          2)Participants will identify and explore a broad range of employment and training opportunities in trades and technology fields.

          3) Women who complete this course will have a realistic understanding of the physical, emotional and academic requirements of training and employment in trades and technology work, and will have developed a series of skills to assist them in becoming competent workers in these areas.[44]



                                                          MARCIA BRAUNDY

                                                           Biographical notes


Marcia Braundy is a university-educated journey-level carpenter, with 12 years at her trade. She was the second woman qualified as a carpenter in British Columbia, and the first woman in the B.C. Carpenter's Union, building everything from Victorian renovations, hospitals, and shopping malls to coal silos 278' tall.  She completed her inter-provincial apprenticeship in 1981.


Ms. Braundy has developed and instructed Women In Trades and Women In Trades and Technology exploratory courses at Selkirk College and The College of New Caledonia in B.C.. She authored Orientation To Trades and Technology,  A Curriculum Guide and Resource Guide With A Special Emphasis On The Needs Of Women, B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education & Job Training (1987). In 1988,  she completed the WITT Graduates Survey, a national study of graduates of technical exploratory courses, available from Human Resources Development Canada, NHQ, Designated Groups.  The Canadian Vocational Association published her 1992 paper "Out of the Stream and Into the River", highlighting Canadian issuses for these courses.


Braundy has delivered over 40 sessions of The Workplace In Transition: Integrating Women Effectively, a seminar for a primarily male audience: vocational instructors, job stewards, apprenticeship and employment counsellors, training coordinators, foremen/supervisors, to assist them to deal more successfully with women training and working in the trades/technology workforce and produced the A/V "What Happens to Women In Tradesland".


Braundy organized the 1988 "Surviving and Thriving - Women In Trades and Technology and Employment Equity",  and assisted with "Surviving & Thriving II - The Sequel" in 1992, and "Building Bridges - Building Partnerships" in 1994, all national conferences with 60-80 workshops over 4 days. She was managing editor and marketer of Surviving and Thriving - Women In Trades and Technology and Employment Equity, Kootenay WITT 1989. Over 1000 Canadian copies were sold.  She was one of the writers of Winning With Women in Trades, Technology, Science and Engineering, the Report of the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology presented to the Prime Minister of Canada in 1993.


Her small renovation and finish work company, Journeywomen Ventures Ltd., started in 1983, has trained and qualified two women apprentices.


From 1989-94, Braundy was the elected National Coordinator of the WITT National Network, advocates for women in trades, technology, operations and blue collar work. Under her tenure, grassroots WITT groups across the country increased from 6 to over 40. She published the Network newsletter and coordinated a national Industrial Adjustment committee of WITT women, employers, unions, educators and government, looking at programs, policies and initiatives to increase the successful integration of women in trades, technical and operational (TTO) work. Their focus on Front Line Education, WITT Exploratory Course National Standards, Role Modelling, and Employment Equity led to a national cross-sectoral Human Resource Council and the publication of "Welcoming Women into Trades, Technology, Operations and Blue Collar Work: A Checklist of Strategies."


From 1986-91, she was a member of the Federal Advisory Committee to the President of the Treasury Board on Employment Equity for Women in the Public Service  and chaired their Sub-Committee on Training. She was instrumental in recommending the federal government, as employer, develop a service-wide apprenticeship program with an emphasis on the designated groups and institute bridging programs to move women into technical occupations.

As a part of the 1989/90 Labour Force Development Strategy, Marcia Braundy sat on the National Task Force on Apprenticeship, the Canadian Labour Force Development Board Sub-Committee on Apprenticeship from 1991-94, the CLFDB Employment Equity Working Group, 1993/94, and the BC Provincial Apprenticeship Board from 1992 to the present.  She has been a member of the National Women's Reference Group on Labour Market Issues, the BC Women's Employment and Training Coalition and has a long history of involvement with organizations working for social and economic equality for women. Her paper, "What Needs to Change to Get More Women Into Apprenticeship" appears in the book, Strategies That Work: Women In Trades, Technology and Applied Science recently published by Green Dragon Press.


She can be reached at R.R. # 1, Winlaw, British Columbia V0G 2J0 (604) 226-7624  Fx: 226-7954


[1].StatsCan - Background information provided to the Labour Force Development Strategy National Task Force on Apprenticeship by Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre and EIC researchers.


[2].Diane Alfred. Labour Market Paper - Women. EIC Economic Services. BC/Yukon Region. December 1989. p.9.

[3].Employment and Immigration Canada. Success in the Works: A Profile of Canada's Emerging Workforce, April 1989.


[4].Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre (CLMPC).  Business Perspectives on the Economy - Number 2,  Short on Skills: Skilled Labour Shortages and the Canadian Economy, November 1989.

[5].Ian McKinon, ADM, BC Ministry of Finance & Corporate Relations "The Changing Labour Market Structure" - EE Practitioner's Conference, March 1991, Vancouver.


[6].Ian McKinnon, "The Changing Structure of the Labour Force" March 1991

[7].Women In Trades, Kootenay Council, 1988 - "Women In The Labour Force: Facts, figures, present and future projections", distributed as part of resource materials/discussion guide for "What Happens to Women In Tradesland", an A/V production.


Dr. David Foot, Professor of Economics, U.of Toronto - "Population, Pyramids & Promotional Prospects: A Training Perspective", delivered at Training - Investing In People For The Future, April 1991, Ontario's 22nd Annual Training Conference.



[8].Employment and Immigration Canada, Public Affairs & Strategic Policy and Planning. Success In The Works - A Policy Paper. Ottawa 1989 pp.1.


[9].Shelly Gordon. Operation Access: A pre-apprenticeship bridging program for women, Part 1 Framing Women's Options. Advocates for Community-Based Training and Education for Women (ACTEW). May 1989, p.25.  This volume provides an excellent understanding of the barriers women encounter going into these fields and a good rationale for inclusion of the components necessary to help women overcome those barriers.  It also has fairly comprehensive bibliography on the subjects of training, women and technical skills.

[10].Lloyd Axworthy, then Minister of Employment and Immigration.  Speech delivered to Women In Trades Conference. Winnipeg 1980.

[11].CLMPC, Business Perspectives on the Economy #2, pg. 1-4

[12].Business/Labour Task Force on Adjustment. Working Together to Manage Change.  Canadian Labour Force and Productivity Centre. January 1989.

[13].Business Perspectives... #2, pg.14

[14].Mary Murry, MSW & Patricia McDonald, LLB.  NOWSKILLS PROGRAM K15622-2 FINAL EVALUATION REPORT, Learning Resources Society. Vancouver March 1991.

[15].Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Caring for Our Children - A Brief on Bill C-144.  Ottawa 1988.

[16].The statistics and information in this paragraph comes from a number of sources:


Women In Trades, Kootenay Council.  Women in the labour force: Facts, figures, present and future projections. 1988


Diane Alfred, EIC Economic Services Branch, BC/Yukon Region. Labour Market Paper - Women. 1989


StatsCan. Women In Canada: A Statistical Report from Statistics Canada. 1990



[17].Alberta Advisory Council on Women's Issues. Newsletter. Volume 4, #2 May 1991. Source: Status of Women Canada.

[18].Marcia Braundy.  Income Support Issues for Women On Training -A Compendium of Views. Prepared for EIC/NHQ, Income Support Division.  Ottawa 1990. pp.9-10.


"In Saskatchewan women make up 99% of the stenos and secretaries, 86% of the bookkeepers, 97% of nurses, 91% of cashiers and tellers, 96% of childcare occupations, 97% of receptionists, and 79% of all elementary and kindergarten teachers.


In 1988 in Canada, the vast majority of working women were employed in service industries (84%).  Women for the overwhelming majority in clerical occupations (80%) and were significantly represented in service (57%) and sales (46%) occupations where they are low wage earners.


Food preparation and service, cleaning occupations, childcare and hairdressing are occupations which account for over 69% of women in the personal service category.


The average wage in Canada for women in the clerical sector in 1986 was $12,718/yr; in service occupations, $7,223; in sales, $9,519.


[19].Science Council of Canada,  Who Turns The Wheel? - Proceedings of a Workshop on the Science Education of Women in Canada, January 1982.  This was one of the first books published in Canada to outline the issues and begin to germinate many of the solutions that are currently attempted in today's school systems and government policies.

[20].Susan Booth, Carol Brooks, Kem Murch, Barbara Brown. Women Into Trades & Technology, published by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, November, 1981. pp.7-21.  This is the first published Canadian curriculum guide for pre-trades & technology exploratory courses for women.  Other courses, in Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg were developed earlier, in the late 1970's.


Jo Shuchat with Genii Guinier & Aileen Douglas. The Nuts and Bolts of NTO: A Handbook for Recruitment, Training, Support Services and Placement of Women In Nontraditional Occupations.  Published by the Technical Education Research Centre, 1981.  Available from Scarecrow Books (908) 548-8600.  It is interesting to note that the first major American work and the first major Canadian work on developing and implementing these courses came out nearly simultaneously.

[21].Shelly Gordon. Operation Access: pp.40-55.  These pages outline most clearly the societal and institutional barriers that face women before and during training and employment in trades and technical fields, as well as outlining structural and institutional strategies for overcoming them.

[22].Marcia Braundy. Orientation to Trades & Technology - A Curriculum Guide and Resource Book With a Special Emphasis on the Needs of Women. Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training, Victoria 1987,1990.  Available from the Open Learning Agency (604) 660-2190.  p.58.

[23].Carol Brooks, Ph.D. Instructor's Handbook: Working With Female Relational Learners in Technology and Trades Training. Ontario Ministry of Skills Development, 1986.

[24].Carol Brooks Ph.D. Kina Waabge: the Circle of Learning - Learning Styles in Native Adult Education Programs. Nokee Kwe Occupational Skills Development Program. London 1987.

[25].Shelly Gordon. Operation Access: pp.84-85.


One classification of learning styles gaining credence in women's bridging programs was developed by Dr. Sandra Segal and popularized in [Canada] by Susan Booth and Carol Brooks.  They suggest that three learning styles interact in everybody's learning process, but that one style is consistently prominent in each person.  The three learning styles are:


Mentally-centred: idea development, overview, focus, clarity, objectivity, precision, solitary learning, structure, attention, observation, rules, visual, conceptualizing, analyzing;


Relationally-centred: personal relevance, verbalizing relating, connecting, creative imagination, peer learning, sensitivity, resourcefulness, assessing, planning, organizing,auditory, modelling, personal expression, creative expression, variety;


Physically-centred: hand-on, practice, practical application, practical problem solving, repetition, drill, completion, kinaesthetic, demonstration, pacing, time management, experimenting, tinkering, tactile.


The learning process has three parts, thinking, planning/assessing, and doing.


Brooks and Booth estimate that 80% to 85% of the North American population are relationally centred learners while 10% to 15% are physically centred.  Unfortunately, our education system is primarily organized to be appropriate for the 3% to 10% who are mentally centred.


This material, drawn from Operation Access: is noted to have come from:


Susan Booth and Carol Brooks, eds. Adult Learning Strategies: An Instructor's Toolkit by Ontario Adult Educators.  Ontario Ministry of Skills Development. Toronto 1988. pp.5, 16-17.

[26].For a synthesis of relational learning strategies adapted from Carol Brooks' Instructor's Handbook, see Orientation to Trades and Technology pp 31-34.

14.Patti Schom-Moffatt & Marcia Braundy.  National Survey of Women In Trades and Technology Orientation Courses. Employment and Immigration Canada.  April 1989

[28].See Appendix 1 for chart of employment/training status before and after training.

[29].Through a misunderstanding, two of the focus groups in the survey were made up of women who had not gone through an exploratory program but had gone directly into trades training with the men.  In effect, this provided a control group as they were all asked the same questions.  Those women who had not been through an exploratory course described, as missing in their training, those components that would have been present in a WITT course, i.e. occupational fitness, understanding the barriers, assertiveness training, rights and responsibilities of workers and employers, etc.

[30].Shelly Gordon. Operation Access: p.80

[31].Marcia Braundy. Orientation to Trades and Technology.  All of the activities described in this and the previous paragraphs are outlined in this book in terms of performance objectives, with learning activities and teaching strategies provided along with some hand-outs and lists of further resources and teaching aids.

[32].The information in this whole section is drawn from 20 or more course outlines and evaluations of courses in Canada.  Those in my collection date from Saskatchewan, 1979 and are sprinkled across the country during the 1980's, including the Durham Study and the National Study of WITT Graduates.  The same information is reflected in The Nuts and Bolts of NTO and outlines and evaluations from Trident Technical College and others in the US.

[33].Schom-Moffatt & Braundy. National Survey of WITT Orientation Courses. EIC 1989.

[34].Women's Employment and Training Coalition (WETC).  Bridging Programs - A Brief presented to Isabel Kelly, DM Gov't Services, Gary Mullins, DM Ad.Ed. & Job Tr., Dick Butler, DM Social Services & Housing. Vancouver, January 1991

[35].Report of the CLMPC Task Forces on the Labour Force Development Strategy. pp. 153-193. CLMPC, Ottawa, 1990.

[36].There are a number of institutions and training hosts which are currently dealing with these results, and trying to find effective models with which to move ahead.  It would be unfair and inappropriate to single of them out, as most institutions could be facing the same problems.  Hopefully, as effective solutions are developed, these institutions will share that information with us publicly.

[37].In a August 1991 conversation with Bob Whittaker, Carpentry Apprentice & Training Coordinator, he stated that either the selection process has to change significantly, or an in-depth exploratory component needed to be added to the beginning of the course so women would be more sure of their choices, have had better occupational and physical fitness and perhaps some math upgrading.

[38].Background research for WITT Graduates Survey

[39].Discussions with unidentifiable training hosts.

[40].WITT Grads Survey and subsequent discussions with training hosts.

[41].For those who doubt women's interest in these fields: when the City of Toronto sent around a questionnaire to women working primarily in clerical occupations, 535 women indicated they would be interested in moving in TTO jobs.  After 2 information sessions, they still had 236 positive responses.

[42].The BRIDGES Program Manual with Participants Workbook and Retention - Support Strategies for Women In Trades, Technology and Operations Work and BRIDGES, A Video on the Program are available from The City of Toronto, (416) 392-7162.

[43].        Confidential memo.

[44].Marcia Braundy. WOMEN IN TRADES AND TECHNOLOGY COURSES - A Discussion Paper. Kootenay WITT. Winlaw, B.C. 1986. WETC, Bridging Programs Brief to BC Provincial Government.  January, 1991.