The BC Construction Association has been selected as one of two groups that will develop a a range of programs designed to help women working or entering a career in the building trades through improved workplace supports, services and practices.

BC Premier John Horgan made the announcement on International Women’s Day following a speech to the BC Building Trades Conference in Victoria. The premier committed up to $1.8 million in funding over two years. The BC Federation of Labour will also be developing programs to support women in the building trades.

“It’s no secret that women in the construction trades face unnecessary challenges,” BC Construction Association President Chris Atchison said in the government news release. “The retention rates for tradeswomen are notoriously low, and employers know they need to do better. This funding unites a powerful group of industry partners with a laser focus on improving retention of women, and I see it as a very real opportunity for progress.”

The programs being developed aim to break down barriers to women who are seeking jobs in the construction trades, as well as getting rid of bullying and harassment on the worksite. Services and programs will include:

  • outreach and mentoring for tradeswomen;
  • leadership-development training to improve workplace culture by addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace;
  • employer-human resource supports, including a virtual team to help develop customized workplace policies, plus
  • onsite mediation to manage staff situations; and
  • exemplary employer campaigns to recognize employers.

The construction industry is projected to face a skilled labour shortfall of approximately 15,000 workers by 2027. Less than three per cent of working women in the province are in the building trades, while only five per cent of apprentices in the construction trades are women.

News of the funding announcement is welcomed by the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, which is one of the four regional construction associations making up the BCCA.

“There is a significant need for creative engagement tools and resources to address systemic inequality issues in our industry’s workforce,” said VRCA President Fiona Famulak. “It is through initiatives like this one that the construction industry can adopt, enforce and celebrate its actions that support the fair and equal treatment of all construction employees.”

In-demand trades’ occupations include millwrights, heavy-duty mechanics and carpenters. Increasing the participation of women in the building trades would help to fill many of these job openings and meet labour-market demand.

Funding for the initiative comes from the Canada-B.C. Labour Market Development Agreement.

Read the provincial government’s news release.