The ladies of Whitby welding

The Durham College (DC) Whitby campus has primarily been the home of programs from the School of Skilled Trades, Apprenticeship and Renewable Energy which has meant the campus has been filled  with a predominantly- male student population. This mirrors industry trends which see women represent only 19 per cent of apprentices in Ontario. However, this trend has recently begun to change as more women have chosen to pursue careers in the skilled trades.

Jessica Cooper, Samantha Hulcio, Lindsey McKay, Jordan Burch and Courtney Pelow-Jones are all students in the Welding Techniques program at DC and have all begun to pursue a career in the trades despite several of them having completed prior degree or diploma programs.

Both Hulcio and Cooper are examples of this transition to the trades with Hulcio earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trent University and Cooper earning a diploma in Police Foundations from Fleming College prior to coming to DC. However, both also possess a desire to work in the trades and through DC’s welding program have found an outlet to pursue it.

“I realized that was not the path I wanted to take with my future,” said Hulcio when asked about her prior education. “I instead did some research into the trades programs because I knew that was the type of work I enjoy.”

Both students credit the warm and accepting learning environment for their success thus far.

“Working alongside the guys in my program has been very enjoyable,” said Hulcio. “We have a great group in our class and they have treated all the women with respect and encouragement.”

The number of women in trades has increased since the early 1990s with the number of skilled trades programs completed by females rising 13 per cent since 1991 according to Statistics Canada. However, this still only amounts to a one or two per cent representation in several trade categories as the larger share of apprenticeships completed by women is within the food and service and hairstylist/hairstyling programs. This is a trend that both Hulcio and Cooper know they can assist in changing.

“I believe that it is important for women to pursue trades because there are a lot of good paying jobs out there and they don’t all need to be done by just men, even though that’s what we’ve been told over and over for years,” said Cooper.

The Whitby campus currently offers 14 apprenticeship programs including 11 that are Red Seal as well as numerous trade-related diploma and certificate programs; living lab environments in areas including solar cell systems, wind turbines and geothermal technology systems; expanded shop areas for green building trades and technology; and most recently the 36,000-square-foot Centre for Food, which opened to students in the fall of 2013.