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The gender disparity in the skilled trades has proven to be quite persistent, but a new partnership between Lethbridge College and Women Building Futures aims to tackle the issue.

Women Building Futures is an Edmonton-based non-profit organization founded in 1998 to provides industry-recognized training for unemployed and underemployed women in the construction trades, maintenance, transportation industries and other sectors.

The organization is now offering its “Journeywoman Start” program through Lethbridge College. The first cohort of ten women has already begun the 12-week program, which provides introductory training in carpentry, electrical, welding, heavy-duty mechanics and wind turbine service. One week is devoted to each core area of study.

A participant interviewed by Global News said that taking the training with other women reduced the intimidation factor in trying out new skills.

“There’s less intimidation and pressure with all women, just because we’re all kind of on the same playing field,” said Jaida Overes.

“Fear is usually what stops you dead in your tracks, but they’re going past that,” said welding instructor Wanda Leclair. “They’re going, ‘OK, I’m going to try,’ and when they do that, that stays with them.”

The program will conclude at the end of September, at which point participants will be able to write apprenticeship entrance exams for their preferred occupation.

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