Executive Director, CWB Welding Foundation
CWB Welding Foundation discusses how diversity in the welding industry ensures a brighter future.
Skilled tradespeople have long been the backbone of Canada’s economy, but one of the main challenges facing the sector is the underrepresentation of women. There isn’t enough awareness around apprenticeships and the types of careers that are available. The CWB Welding Foundation is working to change that. The CWB Welding Foundation develops and supports educational programming, capital, equipment, consumables, and protective equipment that create and upgrade quality learning environments in school technology programs. The Foundation and its donors and co-investors also collaborate to provide educator training, fund student and educator awards, and support applied research in welding and technology.
Typically, those with entry-level jobs in welding have comparable salaries to those graduating from a three-or four-year bachelor’s degree in the arts or social sciences.
An industry ripe for change
According to a 2021 RBC Powering Up thought leadership report, Canada will face a shortage of at least 10,000 trade workers in the next five years, with the most severe shortages among trades critical to the coming infrastructure boom, such as industrial mechanics and welders. However, employers are realizing that the shortage of skilled workers can be filled with the right training and a change in attitude towards welcoming women into the trade.
The perception that women are incapable of performing the physical aspects of the job couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Susan Crowley. “Women tend to be naturally equipped for the spatial relations and fine motor skills necessary in welding.”
Plus, it takes more than just physical ability to perform the job well. Many women currently employed in the trades, specifically in the welding sector, are not only working as welders but are taking on various leadership roles within their organizations.
Part of the mandate of the CWB Welding Foundation is to help women access the opportunities that exist in welding and related trades. The goal is to increase the number of women in welding to at least 6 percent by the year 2030.
The Foundation’s Women of Steel (WOS) initiative 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. As of March 2022, the CWB Welding Foundation will have held 18 sessions across Canada, with over 200 participants. The Foundation recently resumed in-person programming after a brief suspension
due to COVID-19.
Looking ahead, CWB Welding Foundation is planning to implement longer courses to help women explore both traditional and new options for careers in the trade.
Forging new networking and mentorship opportunities
Beyond the introductory training programs, 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 available to women in welding. #WomenOfSteel is made up of more than 85 ambassadors and growing. The Foundation’s hope is that by connecting women with mentors in the industry, they will be inspired to follow a similar path.
A lucrative career path
Welding is among the highest-paying jobs in the skilled trades. Typically, those with entry-level jobs in welding have comparable salaries to those graduating from a three-or four-year bachelor’s degree in the arts or social sciences.
Canadian welding standards are also highly valued internationally, opening up the opportunity to work abroad. “The CWB Group has operations in more than 45 countries, with large infrastructure projects and corporate welding jobs available all over the world,” adds Crowley. “It’s a great opportunity for young people.”