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An untapped resource

Part of the solution to the construction industry’s labour shortage may be supporting women in the trades

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Hanstke also enjoys the fact that the job keeps her fit. “I used to be into rock climbing. Now, at the end of the day I just want to relax.”

Asked why there aren’t more wome in the construction trades Hanstke says the doors haven’t been opened in the right way. “There was an affirmative action program in the ’80s and ’90s but it didn’t lead to women sticking with (the trades),” she says. “Now the women in the trades want to be there — they have proven themselves. Women will not remain employed unless they can do the job. It is that simple.”

Lindy Monahan adds that the affirmative action program for women in construction trades ended in the ’80s, when there was a recession and a slowdown in the construction industry. Female participation in construction trades falls in and out of favour depending on the state of the economy. “Right now there is a construction boom in B.C. and Alberta, so people are looking at women in construction again,” Monahan says.

Hanstke looks forward to future years when she can work as a project manager and do less of the physical work that the electrical trade requires. “It’s like any career — there is a momentum, and you want to gear down in your 50s,” she says. “It will be gratifying to teach the trade to others.”

With regard to some of the high school trade apprenticeship programs, such as the carpentry program at Pemberton Secondary, Hanstke says: “It’s the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s the European way. It took them a long time to catch on to that.”

It’s time for the girls to catch on too.

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