Though the gender gap in the skilled trades remains large in Canada, the younger generation of Canadian women are refusing to let the idea of "a man's job" keep them from discovering or pursuing their passions. And employers are extremely eager to recruit these women. The Baby Boomers are retiring, many of them from top-level jobs in the trades, which is creating a huge demand and exciting opportunities for new skilled workers.

The women who will seize these opportunities are heading to schools like Ontario's St. Clair College to build the skills that will build tomorrow. Jaimey Fulford, a second-year powerline technician student at St. Clair, had her eye on the trades from a young age. "Some people in high school are really into math or English or science, but for me, I was always happiest in the shop," she says. "There's no better reward for me than being able to work with my hands and my mind at the same time."

Creative jobs, rewarding jobs, lucrative jobs

When Fulford discovered the opportunities in the powerline technician career path she knew she found her calling. "I love every part of powerline work," she says. "Being outside, having the freedom to climb, riding in a bucket truck — I feel like I'm not even working and that’s what every day should be – an enjoyment of what you’re doing."

More Canadians should find jobs that make them happy, but to do so, they must be encouraged to explore their interests, regardless of their gender, race, or even age. Nicole Pekala, a first-year welding techniques student at St. Clair, just turned 28. It took her a little longer to find her path to the trades mostly because it wasn't presented as an option.

"When I was younger, I had a lot of interest in the metal shop but I was told that it probably wasn't for me," says Pekala. "It was a job that men did. It was hard work. It was dirty work."

Though the jobs in the trades are hard work and can mean getting your hands dirty, many women love that. Thankfully, Nicole had the good fortune to meet some of them. "I met a few women who had been in the trades, from woodworking to metalworking to custom fabrication," Pekala says. "Every one of those women spoke so highly and positively about their experiences. It was that word of mouth support that really empowered me."

It's a different world

Since coming to St. Clair, Pekala has discovered that attitudes really are changing and people are recognizing that it will take all kinds of Canadians to construct our future. "People warned me going in that I might experience some negative interactions with co-workers, but I haven't found that to be true at all," says Pekala, adding that although the air in the shop is still often blue from choice language, it's a welcoming and inclusive blueness. "There's a whole support network in here. It doesn't matter what age you are, your gender, or the colour of your skin, everyone in this community is going to help you achieve what you want to achieve."

For more information on how you can become part of the skilled trades community and set yourself up for a lucrative career, visit stclaircollege.ca.