Jul 16, 2019
LNG Canada launches unique program to double percentage of women working in skilled trades
The construction of LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas export facility in Kitimat, B.C. will require the contributions of thousands of skilled tradespeople. To help meet those labour requirements, LNG Canada and its prime contractor, JGC Fluor, recently launched Your Place, a workforce development program aimed at attracting, recruiting, training, supporting and employing women to work in the construction trades.
According to BuildForce Canada, a national construction-industry organization, women represented 48 per cent of the province’s total labour force in 2018, but accounted for only 4.9 per cent of workers employed in direct on-site project construction. Rather than simply compete for construction workers in a tight construction labour market, LNG Canada has taken responsibility for developing a larger pool of skilled tradespeople inside the province. Recruiting women is part of that strategy.
“At the peak of construction, the project will require 7,500 construction workers,” says Tracey MacKinnon, manager of workforce development with LNG Canada. “We don’t see the lack of women in construction as a woman’s issue, we see it as a workplace issue. In British Columbia’s women, we recognize an untapped resource we require to meet our needs for skilled construction tradespeople. The goal of Your Place is to attract, prepare and skill-up these women to enter the construction trades. Over the next 18 months, we believe the program is an important part of our drive to double the percentage of women on our worksite.”
Your Place incorporates a four-week workplace-readiness training program and employment supports designed to help women succeed in skilled trades. LNG Canada is covering the costs of tuition, safety gear and learning materials for all participants, while JGC Fluor is covering the costs of return airfare to and from the training facility in Kitimat, in addition to accommodation for participants coming from outside the local area of Kitimat/Terrace. Your Place graduates will have a direct line to employment opportunities in an entry-level position with JGC Fluor or one of its subcontractors on the LNG Canada project site.
The exclusive training provider for the Your Place program is Women Building Futures (WBF), a non-profit organization that delivers customized training for skilled trades. All training will take place at Kitimat Valley Institute (KVI), which increases accessibility to training for Indigenous women and women in northern B.C. The location also introduces participants from other parts of the province to the realities of a fly-in worksite.
“LNG Canada has made an extraordinary effort to help women to succeed in the trades,” says Jacqueline Andersen, director of stakeholder relations with WBF. “They’ve made it clear that women are both wanted and needed on this project and that if they’re willing to work hard, they will provide them with the encouragement and resources they need to start. Our job is to train women to the pre-apprenticeship stage and provide hands-on skills training. But we also help to develop the skills women need to be confident and successful walking onto the construction job site. That includes safety training and developing the type of attitude and perseverance that will help them to succeed.”
The launch of Your Place has resonated with women and the public, and LNG Canada and JGC Fluor are encouraged by the large, early response. JGC Fluor also wants women who are already skilled to know they can apply directly to them for employment on the project.
JGC Fluor will provide entry-level opportunities for training-program graduates. Many of the graduates will be able to become apprentices in high-demand jobs, including construction labourers, heavy-equipment operators, ironworkers, welders, electricians and pipefitters.
Rebecca Boys, external relations with JGC Fluor, notes that the confluence of B.C. mega-projects has created hiring challenges for all construction employers in the province.
“We focus a lot on empowering, educating and involving women in all skilled trades on site and we’ve seen a huge increase in both interest and applications from women,” she says. “The general response from women who have discovered a career in construction is ‘where has this opportunity been all of my life and why hasn’t anybody told me about this?’”
Those women who choose skilled-trades training are likely to benefit long after the LNG Canada facility has been built, says Boys. Demand for construction workers is projected to remain high throughout the coming decade, and a wave of age-related retirements is expected to reduce the size of the construction workforce by more than 44,000 workers over the next decade.
MacKinnon notes that attracting and training women for work on the LNG Canada project is only part of the formula for success.
“We want those women who are employed with us to see LNG Canada as a project of choice,” she says. “When they come here, we want them to stay. For example, we’ve been developing state-of-the-art accommodations for workers at our Cedar Valley Lodge.”
LNG Canada has also signed the B.C. Construction Association’s Builders Code, a program that encourages companies to commit to a harassment-, hazing- and bullying-free work environment and the development of a respectful construction workplace for all workers.
For WBF, success doesn’t end with placing women in skilled trades on the LNG Canada project.
“We’ve learned that when women see other women succeed in the trades, it inspires them to succeed as well,” says Andersen. “When they see a woman who has changed her life by pursuing a career in the construction trades and is now a journeyperson electrician, women see themselves in that success.”
For more information on Your Place, visit yourplace.ca.
Adrienne Nisyok is an Indigenous woman living in Terrace, B.C. She’s been an electrician for 22 years and began work as a skilled tradesperson when women weren’t commonly employed in construction.
“My dad was an electrician and he inspired me to follow in his footsteps,” she says. At age 17, she was the youngest class member in her pre-apprenticeship course.
“Coming from the small community of New Aiyansh, it was culture shock to go to university in Kamloops,” she recalls. “There was one other Indigenous woman who attended the first part of the program and when she dropped out, I was alone. What helped me get through that first year was the support of my family, instructor and classmates.”
She worked the first year of her apprenticeship with her father’s residential electrical company, but I decided to venture out to gain commercial work experience.
“I sent out my resume to every company I could think of and received one reply,” she says. “I worked for that company for 13 years.”
For the past six years, she’s worked as an industrial electrician at a sawmill in Terrace.
“I love being an electrician, not only because I learn more about the trade each day, but because I learn more about myself,” she says. “I’ve developed the strength to work alongside men and feel confident and strong enough to offer my skills and ideas to the workplace.”
By Peter Kenter. Originally posted as Sponsored Content on The Vancouver Sun, on July 16, 2019.