Women shift to non-traditional jobs

January 31, 2016

To this day, I occasionally notice a poster representing a community college with a woman (usually young) smiling as she performs a task in what looks like a non-traditional trade for women. The clue is often that she is wearing overalls which is like a uniform (that saves on other clothes) in the trades.

From news reports, in which women are talking to the media and sometimes going to court or filing grievances with their union, it sounds like it is still quite tough for women in non-traditional professions (the police comes instantly to mind) to avoid sexual harassment and other discrimination.

Years ago, my sister Louella took the diesel mechanic course at Red River Community College and because the first woman in this field in Manitoba and possibly in Canada. She seemed to like the work enough and I think was accepted by her male counterparts.

I remember her telling me, though, about how she noticed men (unlike women) tend not to want to talk during coffee and lunch breaks. It only occurs to me now, though, that maybe the topics they enjoyed discussing were not deemed suitable to talk about in a front of a woman. Or maybe they were a bit shy to talk in front of a women in general.

Louella decided to quit this job and went back to university to earn her Bachelor of Education degree. I think she found that being a diesel mechanic was a bit boring in the end. She wanted a more challenging career.

In recent years, when my son, Luke, was in high school, I remember hearing statistics that showed young women are now going to university at a much higher rate than young men.  Is it because women find the trades to be boring or have a lower tolerance towards working at jobs in which the tasks are more repetitive.

I suspect that there are more women in the non-traditional professions for females. Yet there still is the glass ceiling and we hear about sexual harassment towards women in both the trades and professional fields.

Nowadays we might call it ‘bullying’ and maybe this is a better term, one that hits home for men how being put down in any way in the workplace or anywhere else makes people (often you can substitute this word with ‘women’) suffer as they walk through life and often suffer in extreme ways.

The following is a piece I wrote, I believe, in the 1980s and possibly for Canadian Dimension magazine about women in non-traditional jobs which you might want to compare with what you around you now.

I notice, though, that the place where one goes to try to find work in Canada has not been called Canada Manpower for quite some time. I think it was when Lloyd Axworthy was cabinet minister in the first Prime Minister Trudeau’s government that the name changed to Canada Employment. A nice way to assure women that they are welcome to seek work just as men are.  That women should be in one work field only: home makers, used to be very prevalent as recently as within our life times starting after World War II when women worked in non-traditional trades because there were few men around to do this work. They did well, thank you very much.

Canadian Dimension ?


Women shift to non-traditional jobs

by Tanya Lester

“Shirley wanted to be a mechanic,” the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission (CEIC) advertisement reads. According to the ad there are thousands of Canadian women like Shirley. They are women capable of working in fields considered to be non-traditional occupations for females.

The newspaper ad offers employers 75 per cent wage reimbursement and up to 100 per cent direct training costs if they agree to train women in non-traditional occupations for not more than a 52-week period. This on-the-job training is offered through the Canada Manpower industrial training program (CMITP).  The program is not new, but since Sept. 1, 1980, employers can receive 15 per cent more wage reimbursement if they choose to train women, rather than men, in non-traditonal “female” occupations.

Such occupations, include work in managerial jobs, fishing, forestry, farming, electronics, transportation, and metal works. The 1971 federal census shows women occupy 10 per cent or less of the work force in these areas.

Women in employment, trades and feminist groups agree the CMITP’s training program is a good idea. “The program is fantastic,” says Michelle Menard, a CMITP cabinet-making trainee. “If it hadn’t been for the program, I wouldn’t have got the (apprenticeship training) job.”

But Menard admits the CMITP is not suited for every women who wants to work in a non-traditional field. “You have to be really determined,” she says. A woman has to be willing to search, perhaps for weeks or months, for an employer she can persuade to train her. At that point, the employer contacts CMITP and a program is set up.

Although Menard is a mother, the CMITP female trainee profile shows 84 per cent of the program’s women do not have children. Nor is CMITP actively involved in finding child care facilities for potential trainees.

Pat Hacker, a counsellor at the women’s career counselling service in Ottawa, finds the program’s practical implementation frustrating. “The focus is always towards the employee and no leaning on an employer to keep the woman on after the program is over.”

Legally, CEIC cannot compel an employer to continue to employ a woman after the program is over. However, Lloyd Axworthy, minister of employment and immigration as well as minister of state for the status of women, is considering legislative changes to enforce contract compliance.

“Contract compliance would be a business-like objective program of human resource planning which, while applying sanctions on defaulting contractors, would emphasize a cooperative approach to employers through the provision of advice and technical assistance,” Axworthy said in a speech to the Women in Trades (WIT) conference in Winnipeg last September.

Hacker also cites a problem with bureaucratic red tape. After a woman finds an employer willing to train her, the employer must contact the CMITP. A CMITP officer, a provincial representative from the department of education and the employer then work together to draw up a relevant training program. The process takes from six to eight weeks.

When the program begins, the employer usually waits two weeks before receiving wage reimbursement for the trainee. But Hacker claims, in one case, the employer was expanding his business and could not afford to pay his CMITP trainee until he received the wage reimbursement. After waiting months for the reimbursement, the trainee could no longer afford to work without getting wages and had to quit the program.

“In your on-the-job training, you have a better chance of being trained on modern equipment which community colleges don’t always have,” says Kathy McGuire, a Canadian Labor Congress national representative. “But the problem is supervision.” McGuire is concerned that a woman may not be getting adequate training which she can transfer to another company in the event of being fired or quitting after the training period is over.

WIT Ottawa co-ordinator Pat Nicholson is pleased with the program but agrees CEIC advertising might attract more women if if was geared towards the potential trainee as well as the employer, Nancy Connolly, Axworthy’s assistant in women’s programs, says new CMITP television ads will appeal to women looking for non-traditional occupations as well as employers.

CEIC has predicted CMITP for women in non-traditonal occupations can place 1500 participations in the first year of the program and have set aside $2 million for the program.

Ruth Shane, national CMITP program officer for woman training in non-traditonal occupations, says 245 women have been placed in the program since September 1980. Each year 30 per cent of CMITP trainees are women leaning both traditional and non-traditional occupations. This year Shane expects a shift to the non-traditional side.

At the WIT conference last fall, Axworthy said, concerning the program, “It is my hope that demand for the wage subsidy will be heavy because I am prepared to considerably expand funding if the uptake is rapid and the preliminary assessment favorable.” The CEIC will be doing a follow-up on the program in June. That study should determine the future outcome of the program.

Tanya Lester is an Ottawa freelance writer, specializing in women’s issues.


Other posts on a wide variety of topics can be accessed at tealeaf56.wordpress.com and at writingsmall.wordpress.com

Tanya Lester is also an intuitive/psychic reader (tea leaf, tarot, medium, Russian gypsy card, psychic channel always providing intuitive counselling as well), fulltime house sitter, non-fiction and fiction writer and an art model. To access her services, go to teareading.wordpress.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google or directly email at tealeaf.56@wordpress.com or call 250-538-0086.







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