Manpower’s emPOWER – Women in Trades is a training program designed in partnership with SAIT to provide skills training to unemployed women in Alberta who are interested in pursuing a career in the skilled trades.
Operating for over 60 years in the province, Manpower Alberta partnered with SAIT and the Government of Alberta in March 2019 to create a training program designed to provide essential occupational skills training to unemployed women in Alberta who are interested in a career in the skilled trades. The emPOWER – Women in Trades program provides introductory training in five in-demand trades: Carpentry, Welding, Ironworking, Plumbing/Pipefitting, and Heavy-Duty Technician. The program focuses on providing a safe and inclusive space where women can gain the support, mentorship, and skills needed to secure employment in the trades industry.
Usline is a dedicated single mom with two beautiful children. She completed the program in the spring of 2020 and began a career in carpentry. Today, Usline is a first-year apprentice who is working in residential carpentry. Usline is an empowered woman who is excited to support future tradeswomen.
How did you get started working in the trades?
I always wanted to be in the trades but had no idea how to start. I did some research about training programs available in my city and found the emPOWER – Women in Trades program. The program helped me gain the skills and provided the support I needed to start my career.
What challenges have you faced as a single mother?
Getting to work on time is very important to me but it does require effort. Getting the kids ready for daycare and school while trying to be on time every day is a challenge, especially during the winter. There are days I ask myself, “Is this something I really want to do?” But the trades are something I love and would do anything to succeed at it.
This past September, my son and daughter were sick back-to-back and I had to tell my boss I needed to leave to pick up the kids. That was a challenge because there is no one else to pick them up and I’m losing a day of work. I am able to overcome these challenges because I am blessed to have an employer who supports me and understands how difficult it is to balance working full-time and being a single parent. I am very blessed. I always think to myself, “You know one day I’m going to need the extra support so that I can take care of my kids, so today, right now, let me do my very best work.”
What can employers do to help support single parents in the trades?
Employers need to care about their employees. I know some would find it very frustrating that their employees miss work to take care of their kids; they don’t seem to really care about you as a person, they only care about getting the job done. Honestly speaking, if an employer made me feel that my kids are a burden to his work, I wouldn’t be happy. I wouldn’t even want to work for them. But if an employer understands my challenges and is willing to support me, I am so happy. I am able to work at a job I love and take care of my family. I’m going to work harder and they will get quality work.
Do you have a support system?
I’m getting a lot of help and support and that provides me strength and builds my confidence. I remember the first day of class, I was so unhappy because I was the only woman and I had no one to relate to. But then the teacher said to us, “I know there are a few of you who think you are not supposed to be here. I am telling you now it’s a lie.” From the moment he said that I started believing in myself. I started making friends. I started making connections. Now I tell myself, “You know what, those guys they don’t know me. I don’t know them. I’m just going to put pride aside and not be afraid to ask questions.”
What have you learned?
Through this experience, I’ve learned that you need to think positively and go after your goals. There will be good days and there will be bad days but you are still learning. You are not perfect or expected to be perfect; you just need to try and improve every day. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Your kids are not a burden. They will grow up and be very proud of their mother!
What advice would you give to single mothers thinking about a career in the skilled trades?
Honestly speaking, the trades industry is a very good place to be. For women and single parents in general, we need to be open with the employers. We don’t have to tell them everything, but they need to know we are single parents and that we are doing everything on our own, but are passionate, willing and ready to do the work.