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Empowering women in the trades

emPower Women in the Trades group photo

New skills for new jobs

“Let’s do this,” says Elaine Brochu.

As one of 12 women to complete a specialized women in the trades training program, Brochu is excited to dive into a new career.

Returning to school after more than 30 years, she found both the support and the skills needed to make that change through emPOWER: Women in Trades.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into but am I ever happy I did — it was one of the best things that could have happened to me,” she says.

In March, Manpower Alberta partnered with SAIT to launch emPOWER, a 15-week government-funded program designed to help unemployed or marginally employed women develop the skills to seek employment in the trades. It aims to promote diversification in the world of trades and sets women on the path of apprenticeship.

Through emPOWER, participants pursue pre-apprenticeship training in five trades offered by SAIT —including ironworking and heavy equipment technician — and have the opportunity to prepare for the Apprenticeship and Industry Training qualification exam.

Brochu and her classmates completed the program in June.

Get a glimpse inside emPOWER through experiences shared by its first class.

Amanda Oliver

Amanda Oliver, emPOWER Women in Trades student

After being let go from a seasonal position, I heard about the emPOWER program. I was elated — I thought, this is my chance to make a change for the better.

I have never had this much fun in a school setting. We got to do some of the daily activities of apprentices or journeymen — all of it hands-on — and our instructors were amazing.

I know I can succeed in this new journey — instead of being stuck in an office hating getting up every morning for work, I bound out of bed and can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Elaine Brochu

Elaine Brochu, emPOWER Women in Trades student

In the changing employment market, I suddenly found myself unemployed — feeling archaic even with a college diploma and over 15 years of experience. I felt like I wasn’t needed.

One day, my friend told me she was going to take this program called emPOWER. I said, “Good for you!” and she said, “Why don’t you come, you’ve got nothing to lose but time.”

Am I ever happy I did. I cherish every moment I spent with the group. We encouraged and supported each other without judgment.

Being back at school after three-and-a-half decades, I realized my brain is still functional, that paying attention in class pays off and that, wow, my trigonometry is rusty!

This experience gave me the little boost I needed. I feel like I have a purpose — and that I’m definitely not too old to learn.

Tracy Reimer

Tracy Reimer

This was like winning the lottery of changing careers. I have not only gained knowledge, self-esteem, self-confidence and an “I can do this” attitude but also great friendships and so many mentors. Thank you for this chance to prove not only to ourselves but to others that we are capable.

Shelley Fenty

Shelley Fenty

My world has been undeniably changed by the emPOWER program.

I’m in my fabulous 50s and starting a new chapter in my life. I wasn't looking for just any job — I was looking for something new. After 30 years in the retail industry, I wanted — I needed — a change. I figured, why not look into the trades?

My grandfathers, my dad, they were part of a long line of masons, carpenters and builders. I remember the things they so passionately shared with me and taught me, and I have always loved those hands-on jobs around the house.

Going back to school — what a rush! Excitement aside, there were nerves too. But I quickly realized that this was where I was supposed to be.

Now I feel so much more confident, I have a new-found feeling of strength. I feel empowered to tackle anything and to find a great job in the trades — woodworking, plumbing and welding are my favorites.

What a difference emPOWER has made for all of us and for all of the women to come.

Ready to do this?

Applications are now being accepted for the September 2019 program. Attend an information session to find out more.


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