A career in trades can mean independence, job satisfaction and great pay. It's your chance to find work that is valued, respected and rewarding. Today, there is a trade to suit everyone's abilities and interests, including yours. Tradespeople work with their hands and their minds in industries as diverse as aerospace, telecommunications, horticulture, homebuilding and many others. In fact, there are more than 100 trades in British Columbia where you can train as an apprentice.
If you are currently unemployed or employed but low-skilled, you may qualify for this new initiative. Find out more about more about initiative training programs in your area. If you do not qualify, we may also be able to connect you to other ITA programs and initiatives to help you build a career in the trades. Information about trades training is available by contacting the ITA at:
Lower Mainland 778-328-8700
Toll Free in B.C. 1-866-660-6011
- Meet Nicole
- Meet Mila
- Meet Cathy
- Meet Lorraine
- Meet Jayme
- Meet Carmen
- Meet Keri
- Meet Keenan
- Meet Twyla
Growing up with two older brothers, Nicole Martini never played with tools. This all changed when, at the age of 21 and working a part-time retail job, Nicole learned about the ITA Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative.
As someone who loves working with her hands, Nicole, 24, always knew a career in retail wasn’t for her. She was looking for something to challenge her mentally and physically.
When Nicole learned about the Gateway to the Trades program offered at Okanagan College through the ITA Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative, she immediately signed up. Through the program, Nicole received the career guidance she had been looking for, and funding for a transportation allowance, tuition, books, tools and work clothes. Nicole went on to receive her Level 1 technical training through the Plumber Pre-Apprenticeship program also offered at Okanagan College.
Nicole is now working for Leask & Co., and every day presents a new, exciting challenge. “It’s a great feeling to know what I’m capable of,” she says. “Now, I can fix my own sink; it doesn’t scare me like it used to.”
“Most of all, I appreciate the financial opportunity my apprenticeship has given me. After one year of working as a Plumber apprentice, I was able to buy a house — I never thought this was possible.”
Nicole plans to one day become Red Seal certified. For now, she mentors other young women in the Gateway to the Trades program. Her one piece of advice is this: “Don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do. You can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it.”
To download Nicole's printable profile sheet, click here. (2.7MB pdf)
Don’t let her age or appearance fool you: 22-year-old Mila Puharich was practically born to work in the trades: her grandfather was a Welder, her father an Aircraft Engineer, her mother a Mechanic and her sister is a Painter. After learning about the ITA Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative, Mila received the support she needed to follow in her family’s footsteps.
After nine months spent volunteering across Canada, Mila returned home convinced that a career in the trades was for her. She was determined to take advantage of the welding skills she picked up along the way, but needed help.
Mila found out about the Women in Trades Exploration course offered at Camosun College through the ITA Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative.
Mila received financial assistance to pay for her tools, transportation and tuition for the Level C Welding program offered as part of the course.
“I am very grateful for the support I received for my training,” says Mila. “The program gave me all the skills I needed to pursue my career as a Metal Fabricator.”
With the help of the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP), managed by the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA), Mila secured an apprenticeship as the only woman Metal Fabricator at Victoria Shipyards.
Success is on the horizon for Mila, who is working towards becoming Red Seal certified. “The best part of my trade is that I’m never bored and I love to see what I accomplish at the end of the day,” says Mila.
“Working in a trade is hard but rewarding — you never know what you’re capable of until you face the job hands-on.”
To download Mila's printable profile sheet, click here. (2.9MB pdf)
Before becoming a Plumber apprentice, Cathy ran a home daycare to support her kids. However, when she became her family’s sole breadwinner, she needed to find something else – and fast.
Cathy’s initial job search was troubling: most careers required years of expensive schooling, with little opportunity for income during that time. She was surprised to learn a career in the trades offered the perfect solution with on-the-job training and good wages.
Cathy learned about the Piping Opportunities for Women (POW) program offered by the Piping Industry Apprenticeship Board (PIAB) through the ITA Women in Trades Training initiative.
She was worried about paying tuition and providing childcare for her youngest kids. To Cathy’s relief, the program provided her with a childcare subsidy and transportation allowance, and paid for her tuition, tools and work boots. Most importantly, the supportive instructors at PIAB gave Cathy the confidence boost she needed.
After completing the six-week exploratory POW program, Cathy accelerated into her Level 1 technical training and finished top of her class.
Cathy, now a first-year apprentice and Black & McDonald employee, hopes to one day become a Red Seal certified Plumber. “I now have so much more confidence,” says Cathy. “I’m a different person – I laugh more, I smile more, and I’m conquering new challenges.”
“When I come home with my clothes covered in dirt and dust, I tell my kids what I did at work that day and they think it’s pretty awesome. One of my daughters recently said ‘Maybe I’ll be a Plumber, too.’ I thought that was pretty awesome.”
Cathy’s one piece of advice for any woman considering a career in the trades? “Yes you can!”
To download Cathy's printable profile sheet, click here. (2.7MB pdf)
As a stay-at-home mom for 12 years and armed with no more than a high school diploma, Lorraine Labrosse felt ill-prepared to find a place in the working world. Resigned to the likelihood she would never have a career, she believed she would work at low-paying jobs for all her life.
Lorraine had previously considered working in the trades because she liked being active and working with her hands, but since she lacked any formal training, she assumed it wasn’t an option. Fortunately, a friend told Lorraine about the Industry Training Authority (ITA) Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative, which included a 14-week Women Exploring Trades program at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
Lorraine was accepted into the program in September 2010 and initially found the transition from stay-at-home mom to student challenging. Juggling the needs of her three school-aged children while going to school added to the pressure. But with a great deal of determination and hard work, Lorraine successfully completed the program and is now pursuing a career in plumbing — a natural choice as her father is also a plumber.
Today, Lorraine is delighted at how proud her kids are of her. “I never thought I would be a role model for my kids when it came to having a career, but I feel I am really showing them that they can do whatever they want.”
Lorraine aspires to open her own plumbing shop and credits the support she received from ITA’s LMA-funded WITT initiative for helping her get to where she is today. Not only did the initiative pay for tuition and supply work gear, but the emotional support she received from other women in her program made a real difference, and contributed to her success.
To download Lorraine's printable profile sheet, click here. (217KB pdf)
Jayme, 24, had trained to work in a spa, but working in a "girly-girl" environment didn't fit her personality or interests. The ITA Women in Trades Training initiative helped her find a challenging career she was passionate about.
Jayme was working at a sporting goods store and frustrated by her low-paying, unfulfilling job when she saw the TV commercial that took her in a new direction. "As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to call." The commercial was for the Okanagan College's trades training program for women, sponsored by the Industry Training Authority (ITA), which offered women supported training opportunities in the trades. She met with a program co-ordinator, and enrolled in the "Gateway to the Trades for Women" course that day. It wasn't the first time Jayme had considered a career in the trades. In fact, the year before, she had taken the math exam required for enrollment in the electrical training program, but hadn't been able to earn a high enough grade. She wanted to upgrade her skills, but knew she couldn't afford to quit her job and study full time.
The ITA Women in Trades Training initiative helped to connect Jayme to the support she needed. As well as her tuition, the initiative paid for her books, tools and even the gas she needed to drive to and from her school. The program gave her a chance to learn the basics and improve her math skills. Now Jayme has almost completed the course, and has been introduced to a wide range of trades: drywalling, woodworking, carpentry, framing, electrical and pipefitting. "This is the best opportunity I've ever had. They paid for my basic training and next I'll be taking a pre-apprenticeship for the electrical trades."
In the future, Jayme plans to become a certified electrician. She enjoys the mathematical aspects of the trade and likes the challenge of combining it with hands-on work. "Now I love the work I do and I'm excited about taking it to the next level."
To download Jayme's printable profile sheet, click here. (790KB pdf)
As a single mother, 33-year old Carmen needed to provide for herself and for her child. But without skills, she had to take low-paying jobs. She was bright, hard-working and capable of more, but she needed help to make it happen.
Carmen struggled to pay the bills by working as a cleaner or day labourer. It wasn't stable or fulfilling work, and it didn't pay the bills for herself and her daughter. "I knew the jobs I liked best were the ones that were physical and hands-on, but I needed training to get a job that paid more than minimum wage."
She did some research into the trades and discovered that she had an opportunity to earn wages that were much higher. When her employment counsellor recommended that she attend the women in trades training information session at the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), she jumped at the chance.
The UFCW is one of the partner organizations participating in ITA Women in Trades Training, an initiative sponsored by the Industry Training Authority (ITA). She applied for the introductory course immediately, and a few weeks later, she was thrilled to learn that she had been accepted, and that her tuition would be paid for, along with basic tools and textbooks.
She proved to be a motivated student who didn't miss a day of class. After being introduced to a range of opportunities in the trades, she decided that she was drawn to sheet metal work. "My interest had really been sparked earlier, when some previous tenants moved out of the house I live in and left a roll of sheet metal behind. I started cutting it and working with it and I loved watching the metal take shape."
When she finished her course, Carmen took the standard pre-apprenticeship exam for sheet metal work and passed. Next, the ITA Women in Trades Training initiative helped connect her with an apprenticeship opportunity that would allow her to continue learning on the job while she earned a good wage. Within two weeks, she was interviewed and hired by a Vancouver company that builds hospital and laboratory equipment from sheet metal.
To download Carmen's printable profile sheet, click here. (734KB pdf)
Keri, 39, put everything on hold to take care of her three kids, but when she was ready to go back to work, she decided to pursue her passion and build a career in the trades.
When Keri's youngest child started school, she was ready to rekindle an interest that reached back more than 10 years and start a career as an electrician. "After 10 years out of the workforce, this was something I knew I really wanted to do. My attitude was, let’s just try it and see!" said Keri. "I knew I liked that combination of physical work and brain-work. And as soon as I tried it, I loved it."
She knew she would need to overcome some disadvantages to pursue her new career. "I guess I would qualify as an older learner," she said. "The other people in my class were in their early 20s and 30s, or even younger." She also needed to juggle the demands of school and of her three young children.
The ITA Women in Trades Training initiative, sponsored by the Industry Training Authority (ITA), gave her the support she needed. Through the BC Construction Association, an ITA partner organization, she received paid tuition and all the supplies she needed to complete her program, including textbooks, tools and steel-toed boots. She was also given a stipend to pay for childcare costs, so that she could focus on her studies and feel confident that her kids would be cared for. “I really enjoyed school,” she said. “It was challenging but there was a big sense of accomplishment.”
Keri successfully completed her introductory training, and now she is looking forward to her apprenticeship. She’ll be getting hands-on experience and supervision from an experienced electrical journeyperson while she earns a good wage.
In the long term, she intends to earn her interprovincial Red Seal certification and become a fully qualified electrician who can work anywhere in Canada. "I want this career to last a lifetime," she said. "I'd like to get into sustainable energy such as solar and wind power. That's the generation my children are being brought up in."
To download Keri's printable profile sheet, click here. (746KB pdf)
Keenan, 21, always knew that retail and office work weren't right for her. With help from the ITA Women in Trades Training initiative, she has found work that allows her to develop marketable skills while exploring her creativity. She loves the tools, the workshop environment, and watching the wood come to life in her hands.
Keenan comes from a long line of carpenters, but she is the first woman in her family to pursue a career in the trades. "My dad used to do house renovations, and so did both my grandfathers," says Keenan. "When I was younger, I was always around people who worked with wood. I was always interested in wood, watching the way they worked with it to build something."
Describing herself as "not much of a 'people-person','" Keenan always preferred manual labour and warehouse work to retail or office jobs, but knew that she needed to retrain and develop marketable skills if she was ever going to find work that paid better and was more fulfilling. "I knew I wanted to build a career in the trades," she says. "I like working with my hands, and being able to see the results of your own work is very rewarding."
The ITA Women in Trades Training initiative, sponsored by the Industry Training Authority (ITA), connected her to Tradeworks. At Tradeworks, one of the ITA's partner training organizations, she was able to enrol in a pre-apprenticeship program. "I couldn't have done it without the support they gave me," says Keenan. "Tuition was free, and they paid for other expenses that I couldn't have afforded." Keenan received a transportation allowance and lunch each day during the course.
The program also connected her to the additional training and certification she would need before a potential employer would hire her on a jobsite, including first aid instruction and her WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems) certificate. She even received a pair of steel-toed boots.
She can also earn a higher wage than she ever has before with her new skills. Now she feels as though there are lots of opportunities for her to take her career to the next level.
To download Keenan's printable profile sheet, click here. (757KB pdf)
What began in 2006 as a job working in welding on some of the world’s largest mining equipment and driving 200-tonne electric haul trucks, ended abruptly with the economic downturn and industry layoffs. Unemployed, searching for work in the same places, and looking at the same opportunities as everyone else left Twyla not knowing what to do. “You start feeling like you don’t even know where to look for jobs anymore.”
In the spring of 2010, Twyla attended an Industry Training Authority (ITA) Women in Trades Training (WITT) information session in Prince George and connected to the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) offered by the BC Construction Association (BCCA).
Before attending the WITT information session, Twyla had never considered a career in carpentry, despite her familiarity with other trades. Twyla credits the counselling and financial support she received through WITT for having the job she has today.
Through this WITT program, trade employment specialists worked with Twyla to assess her abilities, develop a strong resume, and improve her interviewing skills, and also served as a link between Twyla and potential employers. BCCA also supported Twyla through a required construction safety training systems course and provided her with the tools she needed to be job-ready: steel-toed safety boots and a robust set of construction tools. Twyla says that coming up with the money to pay these costs on her
own would have been impossible, and would have stood in the way of finding employment.
To download Twyla's printable profile sheet, click here.(750KB pdf)