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Speakers’ Bureau aims to build connections with tradeswomen

Angela Gismondi
Speakers’ Bureau aims to build connections with tradeswomen
ONTARIO BUILDING CONSTRUCTION TRADES — The Ontario Building Construction Tradeswomen’s new Speakers’ Bureau is expected to be used as a platform for tradeswomen to tell their stories and increase awareness about opportunities for women in the trades.

A new Speakers’ Bureau launched by (OBCT) provides a professional platform for tradeswomen and makes it easier for people to directly connect with them.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for OBCT, mainly from schools or tradeshows or if there is a conference, around career planning mainly focused at youth. They want a tradeswoman to come and speak,” explained Kate Walsh, executive director of communications and program manager for OBCT, a committee that supports and advocates for gender diversity in trades.

“OBCT has a big network but we wanted to, given the number of requests that we were getting, make a platform where one, these tradeswomen have a professional platform to direct people to when they get those requests, and then two, profile more tradeswomen who are interested in these kind of opportunities and want to advocate and share their story.”

The initiative also serves as a way for the women to showcase the skills they learn through OBCT courses. So far six speakers are featured on the web platform.

“These women have taken training or done a number of these public speaking engagements so it includes pictures of them at work or speaking, their bio and a little background and then what kind of topics they can speak on,” said Walsh. “There’s an option on there to get in touch directly with the tradeswoman.”


Putting teaching into practice

The OBCT runs a number of leadership development courses and the bureau allows tradeswomen to put the skills they learn to use.

“One of them is public speaking,” said Walsh. “It was also a good way, once we’ve got sisters that have gone through these courses, then we hook them up with the Speakers’ Bureau.”

The OBCT wants to raise awareness the Speakers’ Bureau exists for anyone looking for a speaker but also tradeswomen looking for these opportunities.


It also serves as a way to profile the tradeswomen that make up the construction sector in Ontario and make sure their stories are heard and shared.
ONTARIO BUILDING CONSTRUCTION TRADES — It also serves as a way to profile the tradeswomen that make up the construction sector in Ontario and make sure their stories are heard and shared.


“One of the most inspiring things is how passionate women are that get into the trades,” said Walsh. “They want to share their experience about how great these opportunities can be in terms of a good career. The Speakers’ Bureau came out of that. We want to be able to advocate and inspire other young women to consider a career in the trades. The best way to do that is to tell our story…We’re hoping in doing this launch that we’re also going to get more tradeswomen to connect with us that want to be featured on the site too.”

In terms of topics areas, Walsh said they leave that up to the tradeswoman based on their background.

“The focus of these presentations is really about sharing a personal story and then tips on how to start down a path to start an apprenticeship and get into the trades,” said Walsh. “In talking to different teachers and guidance counsellors, the ones that are really interested in these presentations, they’ve got general information and now they want a person that’s on the tools, in the industry…to have a voice that can share what they went through.”

Many of the women talk about what it’s like to be a female in a male-dominated industry and some of them have experience working in the diversity, equity and inclusion sphere.


Speaker focuses on positive aspects of trades

Heather Ferguson is one of the speakers in the bureau. She completed a two-year industrial millwright program at Cambrian College and eventually joined the local in Kingston.

“I honestly can say my apprenticeship and even my time on the tools, I was always treated with respect,” Ferguson said. “I like sharing the positive side of things.”

When she was a third-year apprentice she found out she was expecting so she took a year off and had her daughter. In 2022, she became the first female in the Millwright Council to be a business rep and in 2023 she was appointed director of outreach and strategic initiatives.

She decided to get involved in the Speakers’ Bureau in order to “step up and do her part.”

“Having the bureau there really allows us to share our talented speakers with those that don’t really know about the trades that are out there and the variety of skilled trades that are all across Ontario,” she said.

“If there is something that you’re interested in, especially if it’s towards the trades, always go for it,” she said. “Step out of your comfort zone and work hard. Ask questions because life can be challenging but it’s not impossible. If you set your mind to something go for it.”

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