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kelly hoey

Kelly Hoey

Executive Director,

Mediaplanet spoke with Kelly Hoey, Executive Director of the, to discuss how the non-profit is helping to address and remove the barriers to apprenticeship for people across Ontario.

From the homes we live in to the electricity that keeps us warm, the work of skilled tradespeople affects every part of our daily lives. Pursuing a career in the skilled trades, like welding, plumbing, or heavy equipment operation, can be a lucrative opportunity that offers apprentices a unique way to earn while they learn.

63 percent of women in the skilled trades reported being told that they don’t belong in the industry and 76 percent reported feeling like they were treated differently because of their gender.

Unfortunately, women are still significantly underrepresented in the skilled trades, making up only four percent of workers. Women experience complex and compounded barriers to entering the skilled trades. Barriers to entry can include financial barriers for access to education, transportation, or tools. They can also include systemic barriers, such as racism and sexism, or lack of network or connections to help get started.

Even if women overcome these challenges, there are also barriers when they enter the workforce. According to a recent Ontario Labour Market Partnerships research project led by, 63 percent of women in the skilled trades reported being told that they don’t belong in the industry and 76 percent reported feeling like they were treated differently because of their gender.

“More women are interested in the skilled trades than popular thinking might suggest,” says Kelly Hoey, Executive Director of the “To retain women in the trades, the workplace culture needs to be inclusive to the needs of those who identify as women. Women are looking for an environment where they feel safe, supported, and secure to do their jobs.” is helping address and remove the barriers to apprenticeship by helping thousands of candidates find jobs. The organization intentionally connects skilled trades employers and job seekers and refers applicants and employers to the services and supports they need.

One focus area for is helping job seekers prepare for employment. The team reviews resume and cover letters and provides valuable feedback. The team provides invitations to attend job search webinars and employability skills training courses, and offers individual and group career counselling and coaching sessions. These mentorship opportunities and events also help people build their network.

Breaking down barriers for underrepresented groups

Out of nearly 20,000 applicants on, only 11 percent self-identify as women. The goal is to raise that percentage to 15 percent by the year 2030. The organization has a number of programs designed specifically for underrepresented job seekers who are looking to pursue a career in the skilled trades.

Avenues to Apprenticeship is an 18-week program for BIPOC youth. Participants explore career opportunities and engage in job-readiness training and health and safety training. They also receive financial support (such as a living allowance, grocery assistance, or money for work clothes and tools), along with a paid skilled trades job placement to gain experience that will support finding an apprenticeship.

The HIEC recently launched a new monthly Women in Skilled Trades Peer Mentorship series. The monthly virtual event is open to women at any point in their skilled trades journey, to meet and network with other women.

“Apprenticeship is the original form of mentorship,” says Hoey. “Through our research, we found that women are seeking support from those with similar or shared experiences — which is not often found on the jobsite. These mentorship sessions are a really powerful way for women to connect with other women in the trades.”

Hoey says that funding from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario has been critical to the important work being done by “The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in high levels of demand for skilled trade services, and we’ve been fortunate for the support from our partners to help meet this demand,” she says.

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