New skills for a changing workforce

“How have I never thought about this before?”

That’s the first thing that ran through Allison Fox’s head when she overheard one of her child care colleagues talking about a welding program exclusively for women. Until that moment, Fox hadn’t been aware that welding was even something in which she had an interest.

As one of the 17 learners participating in NBCC’s Women In Welding program, Fox knows now that it was meant to be.

“I feel like I’m excelling,” she said. “I never had a thing that I was good at, but this….I’m good at this. I could never work at a desk job now. This is a totally different experience and I love it.”

The Moncton Campus is hosting Fox and her classmates in NBCC’s first Women in Welding cohort, funded by Employment and Social Development Canada, which covers all tuition and fees. The funding is designed to help reduce barriers to participation and success in the trades among under-represented groups.

Traditionally, female participation in the trades at NBCC sits around eight per cent.

“We could never break the ceiling of two to three women in our regular welding program,” said Al DeWitt, academic chair of Metals Processing and Construction at the Moncton Campus. “But when we offered this, we were absolutely overwhelmed with applications. We’re over the moon with the response.”

The interest in a welding program exclusively for women was sparked last summer, when the Canadian Welding Bureau offered Women of Steel, a 30-hour introductory course. While last summer’s women welders learned the basics of the trade, Fox and her classmates will complete 25 weeks of on-campus training, plus eight weeks of on-the-job experience. Their curriculum is exactly the same as that of the regular Welding program at NBCC, and they will leave the College ready to work as a welding apprentice.

While Fox is interested in specializing in automotive welding and travelling wherever the job takes her, her classmate Chantal Babineau hopes to stay in New Brunswick and open her own shop, doing custom work. Like Fox, she’s certain that welding is a good career choice for her.

“This has been a great experience,” Babineau said. “It’s super hands-on, every day. The teachers are great, really helpful, and everyone is really eager to learn.”

For student Jolene Surette, the Women in Welding program is a bit like coming home. Welding has been a part of her life as long as she can remember, but she was working as an esthetician before enrolling in the program.

“Welding has been in my family my whole life,” she said. “I’ve been in a garage since I was one years old. I got the chance to take this opportunity and I went for it.”

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