New program promotes women in trades

SAINT JOHN – As New Brunswick struggles with a shortage of skilled tradespeople, NBCC and its partners are helping women become part of the province’s labour solution.

J.D. Irving Limited, New Boots and the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Labour and Training are teaming up with NBCC to give 10 women the opportunity to learn a skilled trade, with guaranteed employment at the end of their training. The Skilled Trades Exploration Program for Women (STEPW) provides 11 weeks of pre-employment training in a variety of trades at the Saint John Campus of NBCC, after which they will begin new careers at J.D. Irving Limited.

“In New Brunswick, women represent only four per cent of the skilled trades workforce,” said Catherine Black, Dean of Trades at NBCC. “By working together, we can respond to New Brunswick’s labour market needs while helping to ensure that female representation in the trades increases.”

Jim Irving, co-CEO of J.D. Irving Limited, said STEPW is the next step in the company’s longstanding partnership with NBCC.

“A large percentage of our workforce comes out of this institution,” he said. “With 1,190 NBCC grads on our team, we know the Saint John community college will deliver first class training.”

STEPW participant Hillari Van Wart has always been interested in building things, but she started down a different career path before considering the trades.

“I was going to be a lawyer,” she said. “I was two and a half years in (to law school) when I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

Maggie Gray attended three different universities over the course of two years before she left academia for a job as a grounds labourer for an arborist. She was on the job one day when a client noticed her work ethic and recommended she apply for STEPW.

“I like working in a hands-on environment, I like being immersed in my work,” she said. “So I thought, that’s an amazing opportunity. This is something I want to pursue.”

Unlike many young women, participant Danielle McGavney has been exposed to the trades her entire life.

“I’ve had a lot of males in my life who were involved in trades,” she said. “They taught me a lot, from working on cars to building a deck. It made me realize I’m a hands-on person.

“I heard about this program and thought, what an opportunity to grow and find the career I’ve been looking for.”

With flexible educational programming that is responsive to the social and economic needs of the Province, New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) is a provincially-recognized public post-secondary institution reputed for producing skilled, knowledgeable graduates who are contributing to the Province’s prosperity. In addition to one- and two-year certificate and diploma programs, NBCC provides specialized and customized training to meet the needs of specific sectors and communities, and delivers apprenticeship training to more than 1,800 learners annually. Find out more by visiting

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