Mediaplanet sat down with contractor, TV personality, and motivational speaker Sherry Holmes, to discuss why she’s passionate about encouraging young women to consider a rewarding career in the professional trades.

Mediaplanet Why is it so important for young women to be encouraged to consider the trades as an industry for a rewarding career?

Sherry Holmes: There is, and will continue to be, a demand for labour in the skilled trades. It’s estimated that Canada will be short hundreds of thousands of skilled trades people by 2020 as many people in the skilled trades are retiring.. This is such a great opportunity for women! A career in the skilled trades can be lucrative, flexible, creative, and rewarding. With the right skills and experience you can eventually be your own boss and have your own business. A career in a skilled trade can offer independence and empowerment. Plus,  women bring a different perspective to the job. It’s really exciting to see the next generation embrace the opportunities available. I’m not saying there won’t be challenges — there will be — but I also believe there is a lot of support out there. I work with many builders who have put programs together to encourage women to join the trades.

MP: What advice do you have foryoung girls who might be considering going into the trades?

SH: I believe it’s so important to try new things. If you are interested in something talk to your teachers, guidance counsellors, or find a mentor. Organizations like Skills Canada and their provincial chapters, Skills Ontario for example, and BUILD A DREAM are so important because they encourage and help young girls and women to consider a career in the skilled trades and technology sectors. These organizations work with local schools, local businesses and industry leaders to promote all the exciting career offerings available. It’s so important that young women and youth know about these opportunities and know how to get more information about them. Events like career days and try-a-trade days provide hands on experience in opportunities available to young people. Don’t sell yourself short. I know it can be scary and intimidating but you will never know what is out there unless you try. It may just change your life!

MP: What do you wish you were told about trades before you began your journey in the industry?

SH: Well, I’ve always been aware of construction as a career because of my dad, but growing up he always tried to convince me to come to site and try things out. I was scared and felt uncomfortable. Let’s face it, even 10 years ago there were not a lot of women on job sites and it can be so intimidating to be the only woman on site. But with strength in numbers and a real commitment from the industry and educational sectors, women are opting for non-traditional careers and it is becoming more widely accepted. I believe if you work hard, love what you do and are committed you can do any job that is traditionally perceived as a “man’s job”. So, my best advice is to ask questions and find out as much as you can about whatever interests you. See if you can volunteer or job-shadow for a day. You may have to work a little harder to find things out but if you love it, you will embrace it and it won’t be a chore. Just do it!

MP: What’s the most rewarding part about working in the trades?

SH: Working in the trades offers a lot of variety and every day is different with a new set of challenges. Tackling those challenges and trying new things is really what makes a career in the trades so exciting. It’s never boring and I get to learn continuously and perfect my skills. I’m also discovering that I actually like public speaking. Being a mentor and ambassador for organizations like Skills Canada and Build A Dream is truly inspiring — I love being approached by young women asking for help or advice and I’m always happy to share my experiences.  The more young women I meet, the more encouraged I am that this isn’t just a phase. It’s a change that is here to stay and a strong presence of women will be part of the next generation of skilled trades.

Mike Holmes and women in the trades…

Jobs in the trades have traditionally been filled by men. But I’m doing my absolute best to change that and to encourage more women to get into the trades. From supporting important organizations like Skilled Canada to hiring more women myself, the industry is in need of more skilled tradespeople and some of the best in the business coming up the ranks are women. I’m seeing more female plumbers, electricians, and carpenters working alongside others. They love what they are doing and are kicking butt. And because they love it, they are really good at it too! Having a more inclusive work environment will bring the best of everyone’s skills to the table. It’s a win-win for everyone. I’m thrilled that I have a daughter who loves working in the trades and who has embraced being a mentor for young women who want to get involved. I’m super proud of her and all her accomplishments.