22 women are well on their way to rewarding, hands-on careers in the electrical sector after enrolling in a two-year intensive program earlier this fall.
“The Women into Electrical Engineering Technology (WEET) program at Algonquin College was created because there is a shortage of skilled electrical workers in Canada, and yet the number of women working in hands-on roles in the industry is very small,” explains Claude Brulé, Vice President, Academic at Algonquin College. “Statistics Canada National Household Survey data confirms that, in some trades, men outnumber women nine to one. Filling that gap – and others in our labour market – will involve men and women working in non-traditional roles, and it is that opportunity that WEET aims to create.”
WEET, launched at Algonquin College’s Ottawa campus, is a two-year intensive postsecondary program designed for women with degrees or advanced diplomas in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math. It is a variant of the three-year Electrical Engineering Technician/Technologist programs the College offers to men and to women who do not already have a degree or advanced diploma.
“I want to congratulate Algonquin College, Hydro One and the Leacross Foundation, on Algonquin’s new Women into Electrical Engineering Technology program,” says Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli. “Programs like this support our government’s plan to create and support jobs while ensuring we have the electricity and infrastructure we need to power our homes, schools and the economy.”
WEET is about more than simply telling women they should work in the electrical industry. As the Construction Sector Council noted in their 2010 report “State of Women in Construction in Canada”, there are plenty of programs that already do that, stating, “Efforts to boost the participation of women in construction careers depend on effective educational and career pathways”.
WEET employs a unique female-only cohort model and guarantees the students a paid work placement with Hydro One, along with other financial supports provided by the Leacross Foundation. The program is delivered in an intensive format to help the women avoid repeating courses they had taken previously and allow the women to enter their industry sooner. The results speak for themselves. Not only did the program exceed its goal of launching with 18 students, but it also recruited more women in one year than the College had recruited into its three-year Electrical Engineering Technology program in the past four years combined.
“The best chance for success is by establishing creative partnerships, and that’s the opportunity presented to these women enrolled in the WEET program,” says Roslyn Bern, President, Leacross Foundation. “By providing childcare, transportation, and equipment necessary to focus in the electrical trades, these women are reaching their potential and contributing to Canadian society. They become the role models for other women in their communities, their daughters, and the trade sector. This program is unique in that it attempts to provide what women have been asking for to succeed in a male dominated industry – material supports, current educational skill training along with safe respectful work environments. This isn’t the first of its kind, but the partners are addressing issues that have prevented women from considering this line of work as an option before, and creating new dialogues about what is possible.”
During today’s launch event, student Patti Wunsch spoke about why she decided to enroll in WEET after hearing a radio advertisement in May. “The timing couldn’t have been better as I had already been considering a career change and had just learned that the Federal government division I worked in was being disbanded. WEET was providing me with the chance to start a new career in an industry that is dynamic and looking for people.
“Before coming to Ottawa to work as a civil servant, I had worked in the R&D end of the food industry for 10 years. The most satisfying part of that job was the mix of hands-on work I did on the bakery floor running trials and the desk work that allowed me to work with our purchasing and marketing folks. It also allowed me to report to upper management on issues that were occurring in the bakeries and impacting our product lines. I believe that a career as an electrical engineering technologist will permit me to again find that balance between hands-on work and desk work, and in doing so will allow me to make a difference and see tangible results of the work I do. The WEET program has provided me with an incredible opportunity to build a new career in an industry that is looking to hire people. If it had not been for the program, I would not have even considered the electrical industry as a possible career option.”
For more information on the WEET program, visit AlgonquinCollege.com/PowerYourFuture.