Pioneer in women in trades training gets lifetime achievement award
Nearly a decade ago, Lindy Monahan started to notice a trend. Subtle at first, women from all trades backgrounds would stop by the tool room at Okanagan College where she worked, to chat.
Sometimes, the conversation would simply be a sounding board for classes or assignments, but more often, it’d be about navigating the challenging waters as a woman in trades.
The conversations were indicators of a need—a place for women to ask difficult questions and feel heard, somewhere to call their own. After months of tool room meetups, Lindy was spurred to create one of B.C.’s first women in trades programs. She met with Nancy Darling, Okanagan College’s trades program administrator, which started the momentum, and after a shift in available government resources, a well thought-out proposal, and funding from the Industry Training Authority (ITA), Okanagan College’s program for women in trades training was born.
This summer, Okanagan College celebrated 1,000 women who have been trained in trades at their site and 10 years of redefining success in the area of trades. Since its inception in 2009, the program has given women an option to explore a career in skilled trades. There are also sponsorship opportunities for eligible and selected women to go straight into a trades foundation program at the College.
The College honoured Lindy’s efforts by awarding her with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1,000 Women in Trades ceremony.
“Lindy has been involved with our women in trades training program since the very beginning,” said Nancy. “She’s been a great resource to the whole team.”
Not only did Lindy develop the program with Nancy, but she is also one of the most consistent presences for women going through the program.
“I didn’t know the award was coming, so it was a complete surprise to me,” said Lindy. “It’s a privilege to have worked so closely with these young women, so I see the award not so much as landing on me but rather the whole aspect of what we’ve done together. The women had to be willing to come and meet with me, so it’s part their award, too.”
After the program launched, Lindy was scooped up by WorkSafe BC, which marked another shift in the program’s momentum. She stepped into a mentorship role with the College, supporting women in the program in a more relational way, reflective of the humble tool room beginnings. Introducing mentors for students was a way of continuing the conversation and providing resources outside of the classroom.
“When we started setting up the mentor team, Lindy was my one and only mentor,” said Nancy. “Every student who needed help outside of the classroom, Lindy was the call we made. The women would really bond with Lindy, and they’d often want to meet up and grab coffee with her. If the entire class all said they wanted to have coffee, Lindy would try hard to make time for every single person and not say no.”
The mentorship program has grown to 20 women who earned their Red Seals in 2019.
“Lindy is the real deal, and our participants pick up on that,” said Nancy. “Her message resonates strongly with our women.”
“In my working career, I rarely, if ever, saw another woman on a job site,” she continued. “That’s the biggest change in the conversation, that these women are actually seeing themselves and other women in the trades. There is that point, that critical mass moment when you know you’re not alone.”
In addition to baby boomers retiring and the accompanying attrition rate, employers are starting to see the need for a more diverse workplace. Recognizing the value in hiring a woman has been pivotal for the culture of trades and women entering the profession as well.
“You can see companies specifically recruiting women because they know they’re reliable, they bring new solutions, they’re capable, and they have a stick-to-itiveness,” added Lindy.
As for the future and building a legacy, Lindy is all about responsibility and care.
“It’s not just ‘my ride’ but ‘our ride,’” said Lindy.
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