In the summer of 2015, Women’s Network PEI began a three-year project called Supporting Island Trades Employers (SITE). Phase 1 is complete, and Michelle Blanchard is coordinating Phase 2.
“It’s a supply and demand equation,” says Michelle. “Our Trade HERizons program has supplied trades women, and now the SITE project is working with trades employers to increase demand. We are looking at their workplace practices and suggesting ways to recruit, retain, and advance women on PEI.”
The 12 employers on SITE’s advisory board represent companies across the Island, from smaller businesses such as Ridgeline Construction with 10 employees to larger firms such as Holland College and Maritime Electric.
“The project found that employers of all sizes have common concerns. SITE can help small employers which don’t have a human resource department to build their own action plans. We help them track their changes and look at their outcomes. The companies seem open to change.”
As part of the project, Michelle analyzed participating companies’ HR policies and employee orientation manuals. Focus groups were also held with Island tradeswomen.
“Since its start in 2009, Trade HERizons has helped to almost triple the number of tradeswomen on PEI. Yet we are hearing some women feel a sense of isolation because they are the only female in the shop. We have created professional development workshops where they can share ideas. Some of our employer advisors have agreed to sponsor these workshops.”
Monthly information sessions with employers will be held on general workplace issues. Employers will also have the opportunity to promote their companies and possibly recruit future employees.
“The knowledge-sharing piece of this project is going to be huge. After we have learned all we can from employers and employees, we will ask how we can best share this information to make workplaces more welcoming. Trades work can be challenging; for example, some women may not be able to do a lot of heavy lifting.
“I know of one employer who makes sure his female employee is busy doing something else when a heavy delivery comes in.
“I think the SITE project will have a lasting impact on the way PEI trades employers accommodate their employees.”
For more information on Women’s Network PEI, call 902-368-5040. Visit www.wnpei.org.
Funded by Status of Women Canada.