It isn’t very often that you find a female foreman on a job site. It’s even less often that she’s leading a team with another four females at her side. But for Sarah Raby, BCIT Electrical alumna and Foreman Electrician with Mott Electric, that’s exactly the position she’s found herself in working at the Butterfly site in downtown Vancouver – and she couldn’t be happier.
“Working alongside so many females is very refreshing and makes me feel very supported and equal to everyone else on site,” Sarah says.
For those in the know, it’s no surprise to find this kind of diversity on a Mott Electric job site. Derek Mott, Operations, Mott Electric, is a BCIT alumnus himself, having attended BCIT for his electrical apprenticeship training right out of high school and completing the program in 2013. He says hiring women in trades is more critical than ever.
“With the growing opportunities and demands in construction, if we do not encourage women to increase their participation in the trade, we are limiting the labour pool,” Derek explains.
Mott offers the Mott Electric GP Women in Electrical Training Fund bursary biannually to eligible females across the province, providing additional financial support for women while undergoing their apprenticeships: “It shows our support for this group and lets them know that we encourage their participation at our company and in the Electrical industry as a whole.”
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BCIT and Mott Electric support women in trades
Mott has been supporting women in trades at BCIT for years, recently donating $50,000 over five years towards the BCIT Legacy of Leadership Award.
While women make up less than four per cent of the construction workface overall, a whopping 60 per cent are present on this job site and, according to Tamara Pongracz, Department Head, Trades Access, that’s inclusivity at its finest: “As more employers begin to recognize the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce, Mott Electric is already walking the walk and reaping the rewards.”
Sarah, along with fellow Trades Discovery for Women and Electrical program alumnae Erica Dickson, Cindy Sun, and Ella Fetherstonhaugh, received funding from Concert Properties toward their apprenticeship programs. Concert, a long-time supporter of Trades Discovery at BCIT, recently redistributed funding from a surplus in the TD program toward Women in Trades (Fall 2021) and Western Diversification Initiative Women in Electrical (Winter 2022).
New funding leads to more access for women in trades
In 2021 BCIT received a College and Institutes Canada grant to offer an Inclusive Pre-Apprenticeship Training program, with the funds from this grant providing access for 15 women to participate in the Trades Discovery for Women program.
BCIT also received federal funding to improve the delivery of foundation programs, like Electrical, to make them more diverse and inclusive places. The co-ed Enhanced programs will pilot in October 2021 and February 2022. These programs are an initiative of Western Economic Diversification Canada and include a $600 bursary from the organization to help each female participant with the cost of their tools and required toolbox.
In addition, as part of their vision for building resilient, inclusive, sustainable communities, Concert Properties and their industry partners will provide half of the program tuition and supplies costs for female participants in the October 2021 and February 2022 Enhanced Foundation intakes through the Construction Trades Discovery Training Fund.
“Known as a leading real estate management and development company, Concert Properties is a champion when it comes to supporting skilled trades education,” Tamara says. “For over 20 years, Concert and their industry partners have provided funds and encouragement to thousands of trades trainees who in turn are able to become self-reliant and proud contributors to the communities we live and work in.”
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Enhanced program to emphasize recruitment and retention of women in trades
The Enhanced Electrical Foundation program will include training in mentorship, diversity, resilience, and networking. While there is an emphasis on improving the recruitment and retention of women in the trades, having a respectful and inclusive workplace benefits all apprentices.
Meanwhile, back at the Mott Electric site, Sarah Raby says she learned more than just skills and theory through the Trades Discovery and Electrical programs: “I learned so much more about what it is like to work on a crew and what to expect in a career working in construction.”
“When we highlight projects like the Butterfly, I think it shows that we are deconstructing those barriers that once existed on construction sites,” Derek Mott explains. “It gives apprentices or women thinking about joining the trade a little boost of confidence when they see others succeeding in the industry.”
Sarah says she’s never let gender barriers hold her back: “I would encourage other women to not hold themselves back from anything because they are female. As females, we can do anything we set our minds to.”