CEO, Skills Ontario
Young Women’s Initiatives Program Manager, Skills Ontario
Skills Ontario has grown to become a well-known charity that reaches millions of Ontarians annually. But stigmas surrounding the skilled trades and technologies didn’t make this easy.
Misconceptions around skilled careers include that they’re dirty, only suited for men, don’t pay well, and are for those who can’t advance in education. Skills Ontario disproves these myths every day, and through our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity initiatives, we’re making sure that youth know the skilled trades and technologies welcome all.
For over twenty years, Skills Ontario has been running its Young Women’s Initiatives program. Through experiential learning, mentorship, and networking opportunities, we’ve reached thousands of young women with an aim to inspire them to explore career paths they may have never considered before or might have even been discouraged from considering.
Just last year, our annual Young Women’s Conference saw over 7,000 virtual attendees — a record high for Skills Ontario. Along with Career Exploration Events, an International Day of the Girl virtual activity series, and more, young women of all ages are learning that skilled careers are not just for boys.
“We don’t just want more women in trades; we need them,” says Lindsay Chester, Young Women’s Initiatives Program Manager. “There is strength in diversity, and when we make young women feel inspired and empowered, it is a win for everyone.”
Skills Ontario has also been running First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Initiatives since 2011 and continues to engage Indigenous youth through Skilled Trades & Tech Days, Student Conferences, and more.
Over the past two years, Skills Ontario has expanded its programming to be inclusive of other groups, such as persons with exceptionalities and people of colour. Over 2,000 viewed our very first Persons with Exceptionalities Conference in March 2021 and heard from speakers who presented and shared resources.
“As an organization dedicated to empowering youth to explore careers in the skilled trades and technologies, we work to ensure that all Ontarians feel welcomed and included in these fields,” says Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario. “Through our programs and initiatives, we emphasize that the skilled trades and technologies are suitable for all. We will continue to put our efforts into making sure all Ontarians feel included, heard, and appreciated.”
Skills Ontario plans to expand its portfolio to relinquish outdated and exclusionary stigmas, and even launched a new Skills Wear line in summer 2021 with slogans on apparel such as “this is what a tradesperson looks like” and “this is what an apprentice looks like.”
Evidently, there is no “right” way for a skilled tradesperson to look. Diversity within these fields is necessary for a strong and robust workforce and it is only when all feel encouraged to enter these fields that we can grow as a province and as a country.