Aecon breaks down barriers for aspiring tradeswomen
Aecon’s AWIT program offers women fully paid, comprehensive training for in-demand skills.
Aecon is doing its part to get more women into construction careers.
Aecon’s Women in Trades (AWIT) Program, initially launched in 2019, is focused on creating more opportunities for women to enter the trades. In 2022, Aecon partnered with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development through their Skills Development Fund to expand the success of the AWIT program with a target of recruiting, training and employing 350 women in various trades roles across Aecon’s operations.
Women are highly underrepresented in construction, particularly on sites. BuildForce Canada estimated in 2020 that women only made up five per cent of the industry’s 1.1 million tradespeople. In 2017 the group stated that women accounted for 12.4 per cent of the construction workforce nationally – 3.9 per cent onsite, 38.5 per cent off-site.
The AWIT program offers fully paid, comprehensive training for in-demand skills. The flexible, recurring training has multiple start dates and locations across Ontario and includes field placements with full-time employment opportunities and ongoing mentorship.
The program is currently recruiting for a range of trades roles across Aecon’s operating sectors, including damage prevention technician (locator), directional driller, labourer, hydrovac operator, welder apprentice, boilermaker, Insulator and more.
One of the keys to the program’s success has been developing partnerships within the communities Aecon works. Janice Perry, a human resources specialist at Aecon and the AWIT program lead, is in charge of building these collaborations.
“I help build those partnerships that help us connect with women who are interested in the program,” said Perry.
“Our industry is still very much a male dominated industry and we are driven to change that”
Once women are recruited, they receive training both through Aecon and through groups like LiUNA, one of the program’s major partners.
Since Perry took on this role last year, there have been over 100 women who have joined the program. She said AWIT is still a work in progress as it grows with its partners, but the vision is big.
“Overall, we want to ensure participants don’t just think of this as a career program or an employment program, but as a real opportunity to change the trajectory of their career – through compensation, benefits and upping their skills,” explained Perry. “You don’t need specific experience to join the program – we will provide the participants with training to set them up for success in the field. Because that is often where the hesitation comes in. Some candidates may feel they won’t know everything, and that barrier limits the number of candidates we get. But by framing the program in a way that shows we offer paid training and support helps eliminate that barrier.”
She added that another critical strategy is building partnerships with the community so program participants can be identified. This includes schools, local unions and employment service centers across the Greater Toronto Area. Perry believes initiatives like this are necessary to address ongoing labour shortages in the industry
“A lot of employers are challenged with the increasing labour shortage,” she said. “We realize that we need to be innovative in how we recruit and fill those gaps, and AWIT is one avenue. We have to be creative, get involved and meet people where they are at.”
She noted that AWIT is continuing to look for opportunities to expand the program across new work types and trades across Aecon. Aecon intends to continue with AWIT in the years ahead as part of its efforts to further diversify the workforce and the Industry.
To learn more about the program or to submit an application, contact the team at AWIT@aecon.com