Support for Indigenous women in trades is on the rise.
The Keepers of the Circle has received funding to work with companies looking to recruit and retain Indigenous women in trades through Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) under the Canadian Apprenticeship Strategy. Funding per project is capped at $3 million through the ESDC.
The training through the Keepers of the Circle program will be focused on Red Seal certification, which shows that a tradesperson has met the national standards for their skilled trade. It requires a formal apprenticeship as well as an exam.
“A lot of the issues are that trades aren’t typically pushed on women and especially Indigenous women,” said Renee Yik, Keepers of the Circle’s programs and strategy development lead.
“But even when a woman enters into that space, oftentimes it’s not very welcoming, and it doesn’t create a space where they want to stay, so with this funding and this program is to be able to help change what those work environments are like.”
While there are programs to get Indigenous women into the trades, Yik said there is also a focus on ensuring they’re safe and comfortable in those positions along the way.
“We work with each trainee to assess what their needs are based on their situation, so that could be childcare or transportation,” she said. “At the same time, we are open to any Indigenous women apprentices who are currently going through their apprenticeship and maybe want to make those changes in their workplace.”
Keepers of the Circle is looking to work with companies interested in hiring Indigenous women in the trades and helping them make their workplaces safer.
“There’s a lot of intersectionality in it, so we’re working with employers to actively create solutions and be able to consult with the women who are on the floor,” she said.
“Oftentimes the voices of Indigenous women aren’t heard, so we want to bring that forward to make sure employers are adapting their practices or changing their policies to support the success of Indigenous women apprentices.”
The support for employers will be individualized to the situation. That individualized approach also applies to the women involved in the training.
Keepers of the Circle has supported Indigenous women with employment and education opportunities for 25 years, including their Aboriginal Women in Mining program, which expanded in March 2023.
“That’s kind of where we noticed a gap. When it first started, we were mainly in mining,” said Yik.
“Obviously, with the changing landscape and as people move toward greener economies and with the gap that exists in the skilled trains in general, we are trying to enter into new spaces and support Indigenous women to establish themselves in all these different sectors.”