Cabinetmaker blazes trail for women in the trades

Alicia Demare has been working in the skilled trades for the past four years, but her vocational journey didn’t begin there. Demare completed a full year of study in the architecture program at the University of Manitoba before recognizing that it wasn’t quite the right fit for her.
“I realized I wanted to do something different, something more hands on,” Demare reflects. She says her passion for design and working with her hands comes from growing up on a farm and watching her grandfather fix things. “He was a real handyman, always fixing or building something.”
After a year of university studies, Demare decided to make a change and enrolled in a pre-employment program in cabinetmaking. She suddenly felt at home. “After only the first week of classes, I knew I had found my true calling.”
She continued her training by finding a job and signing up as an apprentice cabinetmaker. Now she’s using her experience to motivate other young women who are starting to consider career options.
Youth camps
Demare recently heard about a chance to work as an instructor for the Building for Tomorrow youth camps. These day camps are part of an initiative developed by the Manitoba government in partnership with training providers throughout the province to promote the skilled trades to a younger audience.
She jumped at the chance to share her experience in cabinetmaking and was given the opportunity to instruct a girls-only youth camp at Red River College. “I wanted to help inspire young people and give back to the community.”
During the first week, Demare saw that the girls were eager to learn. “I was thrilled to see that they really wanted to be at this camp and were excited to have a hands-on project to complete.” She adds that some girls would even show up an hour early, hoping to get extra practice time with the tools.
The success of the day camp proves that boys aren’t the only ones interested in hands-on learning. Despite this, however, many women still encounter barriers to entering a career in the skilled trades. Demare recalls her own struggles: “I’m the only woman in a shop with 50 men and I’ve had to work above and beyond to prove myself. But I’ve grown a thick skin and it’s made me even more determined to succeed in my trade.”
High demand
Women comprise only two per cent of workers in the so-called non-traditional skilled trades, including those in the construction, industrial, and transportation sectors. But with skills shortages looming across the nation due to high numbers of retirements and growing economies, women are the key to increasing the skilled labour workforce across the province and the country.
Demare thinks that the right place to start encouraging more women to enter the skilled trades is with opportunities like the youth camps. “I believe that young people need to be exposed to all career options available to them, especially because skilled tradespeople are in such high demand right now.”
Demare’s passion and determination have paid off. She recently completed the final level of her apprenticeship program, and she is expected to receive Red Seal certification in the trade of Cabinetmaker later this year.
For more information about opportunities in the skilled trades, visit the Apprenticeship Manitoba website at http://www.manitoba.ca/tradecareers.
-Apprenticeship Manitoba

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