Executive Director, CWB Welding Foundation
The CWB Welding Foundation helps women access the opportunities that exist in welding and related trades, like training and networks.
When Jill Timushka first tried welding with her father, she liked it immediately. She got her apprenticeship started right away, and before she knew it, she was journeyman certified. Now, she’s a b-pressure welder, Red Seal endorsed, and has been in her career for more than 20 years. She is currently filling in as the National Manager of Youth, Diversity and Indigenous Relations with UA Canada.
“If I were to give my younger self any advice, I would say to try trades in high school, and get the career started a lot earlier,” says Timushka. “It’s never boring, it’s fun. It’s always interesting, and the pay and benefits have allowed me to live a very good life.”
Timushka is in the minority as a woman in welding. Barriers to women entering the trades are legion. There is little encouragement for girls to take skilled trades classes in high school, and not enough awareness around apprenticeships and careers. Once women start their journey towards a trade, they still face an uphill battle. Women report experiencing isolation, discrimination and harassment. Many become discouraged and choose not to progress in their careers. It’s no wonder that women make up only 4.5% of the skilled trades work force, and fewer than one in 20 welders are women.
Part of the mandate of the CWB Welding Foundation is to help women access the opportunities that exist in welding and related trades. Its Women of Steel (WOS) programming aims to support women in welding through foundational training and mentorship. The WOS Forging New Opportunities: Introduction to Welding Program is a 30-hour course funded in part by the Government of Canada. Between April 2019 and March 2020, the CWB Welding Foundation held 10 sessions across Canada, which engaged 120 participants. While in-person programming has been suspended due to COVID-19, the Foundation hopes to deliver programs again when the time is right.
The program has been very well received. One student said, “I’m very grateful for the Women of Steel program. Before attending the program, I’d never been introduced to welding as a career and now I’m on the path to hopefully get an apprenticeship. Thank you to the CWB Welding Foundation and to all the people that made the Women of Steel program happen.”
Beyond the training program, the CWB Welding Foundation’s #WomenOfSteel network allows women welders to connect and share their journeys and encourages other women to explore careers in welding. This helps to raise awareness of the opportunities and pathways available to women in welding. #WomenOfSteel is made up of more than 85 ambassadors and continues to grow. The Foundation’s hope is that when women hear from other women who have found success in the skilled trades, they’re inspired to follow a similar path.
Women welders like Jill Timushka are eager to tell their stories. Timushka’s message to other women about welding? Just try it. “Get yourself into a welding shop with a welder friend or a welding program,” she says. “You’ll enjoy the journey of exploring the many aspects of the welding trade, believe me.”