Over a five-year period (2007–2012), the number of women in skilled trades jumped by 66 percent, according to Statistics Canada. As more women and companies have realized the tremendous opportunities available, it’s a trend that has continued.
One woman’s path into skilled trades
Calli Zwierschke is a 25-year-old from St. Catharines, ON who is just weeks away from achieving her dream — officially becoming a licensed construction and maintenance electrician. In her fifth year as an apprentice, Zwierschke is also eight months pregnant with her first child.
Early on in life she knew what she wanted to do, partially thanks to a high school co-op term where she and twenty fellow students built a house for Habitat for Humanity. After that, her career path was clear.
“I grew up on a farm and my dad is a welder millwright,” she says. “ I always loved working with my hands and didn’t want a job where I would have to sit at a desk all day.”
Zwierschke attended a one-year program at Sheridan College where she picked up practical knowledge through hands-on training and classroom instruction. It confirmed her choice of profession, and she applied to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to start her apprenticeship.
How has having a baby affected her career path? It hasn’t. Despite her initial concerns, she found her employer, Modern Niagara Building Controls, has been responsive to her needs. Around the six-month mark of her pregnancy, the demands of the job necessitated a change.
“At first, I thought I would take a sick leave for the rest of my term,” recalls Zwierschke. “And come back to work after my maternity leave. But my employer wanted me to stay and offered me a job as project coordinator where I can split my time between being in the office and out in the field.”
It’s been a positive experience — better than she could have possibly hoped. “They’ve been so accommodating for things like doctor appointments. It’s worked out perfectly.”
Looking down the road into the future, Zwierschke says she won’t hesitate to share her skills and teach her daughter how to use power tools. Perhaps she might follow in her mother’s footsteps and join the growing number of Canadian women in skilled trades.