by Saskatchewan Polytechnic Saskatchewan Polytechnic

The Saskatchewan Polytechnic Women in Trades & Technology program has been helping women access careers in the trades for more than three decades

For more than 30 years, the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Women in Trades & Technology (WITT) program has encouraged women to think about non-traditional career options and addressed barriers that may limit their participation in these fields. Greatly influenced by the women who founded Saskatchewan Tradeswomen in the 1970s, a movement that eventually formed Saskatchewan Women in Trades and Technology (SaskWITT), Sask Polytech’s WITT program recognizes now, more than ever, the array of opportunities awaiting women in traditionally male occupations and, in turn, the great opportunity that women afford the industries that hire them.

“Women bring to the job site more than the hard skills they learn in their programs of study,” said WITT program head Brittany Grimsdale. “Diversity in the workforce often means new ideas, and different areas of strength.”

WITT encourages exploration, offering a range of programs and events, including camps, info sessions, courses and mentorship. The Girls Exploring Trades and Technology, or GETT, camp that launched in 1991 has grown from one-day to five-day camps – reaching over 3,600 girls in grades six, seven and eight in a program aimed at demystifying trades and tools in a fun environment with a focus on problem solving. Camps have expanded in subject area in recent years to include those with a technology focus. During this past year, programs and camps shifted online to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions to in-person learning.

WITT’s Exploratory Workshops teach women aged 15 and older basic carpentry, welding, electrical or plumbing skills, and a separate technology-focussed exploratory course introduces women to a variety of basic technology skills. Says a past participant, “The WITT program helped me discover potential careers that I wouldn’t have realized before taking part in one of their workshops. With the help of some wonderful people at WITT I was given the encouragement and confidence to decide the next step towards my future.”

An informal mentorship program run by WITT goes beyond curriculum to match students and apprentices with experienced professionals. Women are matched on field of expertise, family situation or cultural background. The mentorship program includes a few networking events throughout the year, which are great opportunities for the women to discuss challenges, celebrate wins and learn about new job opportunities.

The global pandemic has made the future unclear for many sectors, but for the heavy construction industry one thing remains clear: Saskatchewan continues to grow, and the provincial government remains committed to stimulating economic recovery by investment in capital projects as demonstrated by their $7.5 billion, two-year capital plan announced in May 2020. Construction and related industries will need skilled and trained workers to capitalize on opportunities and rise to new challenges. Saskatchewan Polytech’s WITT program is helping to ensure that there is diversity within the pool of available hires, benefitting everyone. 

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