The Skilled Trade Employment Pathway Program started as a conversation between Nicole Andrews, a strong advocate for youth employment and Program Facilitator with Interconnection Research International and Molly Coughlin, an HR Manager focused on industrial operations with Express HR. 

Coughlin shared her frustrations with the trades industry with Andrews. She struggled to find the perfect fit between the skilled trades and the multi-faceted nature of her career path and felt that her expertise in optimizing an employee’s soft skills was required long before the hiring process. Similarly, Andrews noticed a knowledge gap in helping trades industry hopefuls navigate complicated career paths. The two agreed, that together, they could make a difference in the industry while creating a rewarding, lasting impact.

Realizing the dream

Not long after their discussion, the stars aligned. Andrews and Coughlin met with Ron Oberth, President of Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries, who shared his enthusiasm for helping his organization’s members find the 4,000 additional journeypersons required to fill the needs of the nuclear supply chain over the next 10 years. His focus was set on including  Indigenous peoples within this core group, as the interest in the skilled trades was rising significantly within that community.

The drive to shape the industry through the committee was energizing and inspiring, and the program development started off without a hitch — a sign for the core group that their endeavour was clearly meant to be. Later, the S.T.E.P team would include Darryl Specter, President of Promation; Jerome Horowitz, President of Brotech; Mike Ruysseveldt, Director of Business Development of Promation; Jacques Plourdes, an engineering consultant and past President of the CNS; and Marina Oeyndgen, Director of Operations at OCNI.

Though advocating for greater involvement of women in trades was implied through the committee’s brainstorming sessions, the group realized they needed to highlight this key focus in their pilot project proposal to the provincial government to ensure that the impact of women in the trades was given the respect it deserved.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development approved the pilot project and was awarded close to $500,000 to improve the lives of youth, women, and Indigenous peoples while enhancing the industry's employment processes and unemployment rates.

Making an impact

The S.T.E.P program is truly a niche employment service. It provides outreach, career mapping, and job placement. In researching the format for the program, Andrews and Coughlin dug deep to uncover knowledge and soft skills gaps that were having a negative impact on the industry, later developing solutions to ensure trade hopefuls were not left in limbo.

Today, they work to ensure candidates for the trades field are included, advocated for, and receive equal opportunity regardless of gender, ethnicity, or employment history.  Their unique approach of collaborating with educators, employers, unions, parents, and students combined with their creatively-inclusive approach is addressing the skilled trades shortage and has brought regional economic relationships closer together. For the two women, the program’s success has been nothing short of amazing. Moving forward, Andrews and Coughlin are committed to eliminating employment silos and collaborating with employers, stakeholders, and industry partners.

For general information about the program, email step@ocni.ca. If you’d like to become a participant, get in touch with Coughlin at expresshr@hotmail.com or Andrews at nicole@interconn.ca.