Canadian office supports women in the building trades

L-555 apprentice Tracy Fedorowich Photo courtesy of Sarah Mcatee

After high school, when Tracy Fedorowich thought about what to do with her life, she considered the building trades. But she didn’t take any action toward that idea until she landed in her late 20s. That’s when she decided to get serious about pursuing a career. She wanted a job that paid well and one where she wouldn’t get bored, so she applied to school to get a welding certificate.

“I’d never done anything like that. Something that’s typically considered ‘men’s’ work. I didn’t know what to expect,” Fedorowich says. “Once I got to welding and doing the hands-on side of it, I found it really challenged me to put my best into learning the skill. It was fun and I liked it.”

But trying to find work wasn’t nearly as “fun” as welding. She hit multiple roadblocks trying to find a job until her sister suggested contacting the Saskatchewan Office to Advance Women Apprentices. The office, which opened its doors in May of 2019, helped Fedorowich land an apprenticeship with Local 555 (Winnipeg, Manitoba) at its Saskatchewan location. She was one of the office’s first successes.

With women only representing 13% of workers in the Canadian building trades, the Office to Advance Women Apprentices engages and supports tradeswomen with a mandate to offer support and increase employment opportunities for women. The office has the backing of the Employment and Social Development Canada and Canada’s Building Trades Unions, and it’s committed to identifying barriers, measuring success and offering assistance to skilled tradeswomen in the province. The office also provides ongoing support services for women already employed in skilled construction trades.

After Fedorowich contacted the Office to Advance Women Apprentices, they brought her in for an interview.

“They wanted to know my goals,” she says. “What route I wanted to go with in welding. Then they sent out my resume and talked to employers on my behalf.”          

They also encouraged her to consider joining a union. “I knew about unions but didn’t know how to approach them. I didn’t know who to talk to or if I needed special qualifications or anything.”

Fedorowich says people at the office were helpful and understood what she was going through being a woman in a male-dominated industry. They helped her find the Boilermakers and smoothed the path for her to indenture with the union. She’s now been with L-555 for over a year.

“It’s not easy to do this type of work, and it takes getting used to. Being a woman, being away from home and working long hours,” she says. “It’s a learning process.”

For more information on the Saskatchewan Office to Advance Women Apprentices visit www.womenapprentices.ca/saskatchewan.