The 150 apprenticeship programs available in Ontario offer more opportunities than ever for women to excel in high-paying, creative, and rewarding careers in the skilled trades. Home to many of these programs is the Centre for Trades and Technology at Humber College, which takes students beyond a traditional classroom setting and provides hands-on practice in a simulated work site — be it plumbing, welding, or cabinet making.

A lesser-known apprenticeship program is the Horticultural Technician Program.  A pre-apprenticeship version of the program was offered in partnership with the YWCA. Open to unemployed women interested in building skills for future employment prospects, the program provided full basic level training, textbooks, and safety equipment training for the field at no cost, in addition to an eight-week placement with a local employer.

Trades clearing a path for women’s career development

For recent graduates Jennifer Kliment and Amina Jalili, the program has enabled them to make a quick and successful transition from working at their respective jobs in the business and engineering fields to living their dream careers as horticulturalists with the City of Toronto.  

For Kliment, what started as an after-work and weekend micro-gardening venture at one of Toronto’s urban plots turned into a passion. She was initially hesitant to leave her secure office job to train for a new career in horticulture for fear of getting into debt but when she learned about the free Horticulture Technician Program she immediately signed up. “I just took a leap of faith, dove into the program and haven’t looked back since,” she says.

Jalili was a successful industrial engineer in the manufacturing sector and later as an environmental engineer but she was attracted to the program because of her deep love and respect for nature. She found a newspaper ad for Humber’s Horticulture Technician program. “It was a sheer accident, but I’m so grateful to be doing something now that I feel most competent to do,” says Jalili.

Changing communities and the country

Both graduates love their work and see horticulture as a growing and dynamic field, and a great one for women to be involved in. “A lot of students in our class thought it’s gender-associated, but the skills and knowledge that women bring to the job actually complement those of the men on the crew,” says Kliment. 

By considering careers in the trades like horticulture, women have a chance to make a difference in shaping not only their own future but that of their communities and Canada. “Horticulture is not just about the immediate effect of finding a job,” says Jalili. “It changes minds, lives, and perspectives. We have to take care of this land and beautify it — and horticulture is a skill that gives you the opportunity to do that,” she says.

To learn more about trades programs, like Humber’s Horticulture Technician Program, visit: humber.ca.