Women Building Futures Supports Construction and Trades in Creating Inclusive Worksites

Megan Bates
Manager of Industry Relations, Women Building Futures

Women Building Futures (WBF) is a not-for-profit organization based in Edmonton that is making waves in the construction, trades and driving industries through their industry-recognized training and wraparound programs for women.

As more people near retirement, many industries have turned their attention to diversity and inclusion measures to expand their talent pool. The construction and maintenance industries are anticipating a loss of close to 250,000 skilled workers — 21% of its current labour force — by 2026.1 One solution is to utilize the largest untapped labour force in Canada: women. If only 1% of the 6.2 million women in Canada between the ages of 20 to 44 had access to training and employment, we would be able to address nearly 25% of this anticipated labour shortage.

Female working in industrial workshop

WBF provides pre-apprenticeship and readiness training for women looking to enter the construction, oil & gas, skilled trades, maintenance and driving industries. With a proven approach of awareness, education, pre-program assessment, training, employment support and strong partnership with construction, trades and driving industries, WBF helps increase the skilled workforce and provides opportunities for women at any stage of their working life. WBF partners with construction, trades and driving industries, government and communities to champion women’s representation in industries where they have historically been under-represented. Over the last 20 years, they’ve trained over 1,500 women who have maintained a 90% employment rate after completing training.

“We work alongside industry partners to stay up to date with industry trends, projections and projects to ensure the programs we’re providing will best prepare students for jobs that are available,” shares Industry Relations Manager Megan Bates. “We know when our alumni are hired with one of our industry partners that they’re moving on to work with an employer that cares about continuous growth and career development. Employers also know when they interview WBF Alumni, they are connecting with highly-motivated, skilled workers who are eager to learn and invested. Everyone has the best opportunity for long-term success with our approach.”

The future

In 2019, WBF is working to build an industry-recognized “Employer of Choice Certification” that will assess employers for safe and inclusive work practices prior to referring WBF Alumni for employment opportunities. The goal for this program is to recognize and celebrate employers who are currently prioritizing inclusive, diverse worksites and encourage those employers who have some work to do, to invest in becoming more diverse and inclusive-focused.

As part of the mandate to support a more inclusive workforce and bring more women into the field, WBF works alongside industries to educate and provide insight into how employers can increase retention and career progression for women. These partnerships ensure employers who hire WBF Alumni are committed to providing growth and learning opportunities.

Trade Perspectives summit

To bring awareness to industries and assist in creating more diverse, inclusive worksites for not only women but all workers, WBF hosted a two-day summit in Edmonton at the beginning of October 2018. The summit, entitled Trade Perspectives, focused on how to create and sustain a more diverse and inclusive workforce in the construction and trades industries. Kathy Kimpton, CEO & President of Women Building Futures shared the goal of the conference in her opening remarks: “Conversations will be authentic and focus on the challenges and opportunities — presenting real life situations and best practices so we can keep moving forward.”

Conversations also underlined how it’s not only important to tap a wider talent pool, but also create a success plan to keep those workers engaged and feeling welcome.

Nearly 250 leaders and influencers from across Canada gathered to tackle topics like:

  • How to attract and keep women in the industry;
  • How to manage workplace harassment;
  • How to build sustainable partnerships with indigenous communities; and
  • How leaders can inspire and influence change at all levels.

Many speakers and panelists highlighted the benefits of tapping into a more diverse workforce and stressed the reputational and financial risks of not pursuing these opportunities. Conversations also underlined how it’s not only important to tap a wider talent pool, but also create a success plan to keep those workers engaged and feeling welcome.

Woman operating heavy machinery

Some conference guests described diversity as “being invited to the party” and inclusion as “being asked to dance.” A common discussion point was how to ensure the conversation around diversity and inclusion is not something only being tackled at the executive level, but something that was understood and embraced by those working in the field.

The guest attendance of the WBF Summit proved that many companies in the construction and trades industries are ready to move past conversation and are committed to truly changing the face of the industry. WBF is very excited to be on the fore of this change.

We know that when we work together to create truly inclusive workplaces based on respect, it creates a better environment for everyone.

1 BuildForce Canada, Construction & Maintenance Looking Forward National Summary 2017-2026, (Ottawa: BuildForce Canada, 2017), 1 & 9.

Megan Bates, Manager of Industry Relations, Women Building Futures

Megan Bates

Manager of Industry Relations, Women Building Futures

Megan is the Manager of Industry Relations for Women Building Futures (WBF) and works to increase the awareness of the organization and form partnerships with industry and local associations.

Since joining WBF in 2016, Megan has led the pilot of a Professional Class 1 Driver program and a Solar/Renewable Energy program. She’s also identified and secured multi-year partnerships with municipalities surrounding Edmonton. Megan thoroughly enjoys working to identify new areas of opportunity to ensure WBF is offering programs that align with economic and industry needs.

Megan is passionate about helping women find their confidence and become financially independent. Megan lives in St. Albert with her husband Mike and their two children, Mia and Sam.

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