5 min read
04 August 2022

A new WoodGreen training program helps women enter the skilled trades

Celine Hong, Outreach Coordinator, Workforce Development

Did you know? There is a huge gender gap in the skilled trades and related occupations in Canada.

Only seven percent of workers in skilled trades are women! At the same time, tens of thousands of trades jobs are sitting empty in Ontario because there are not enough skilled people to fill those positions.

We are helping to solve this problem. With funding from the Ontario Skills Development Fund, WoodGreen has partnered with George Brown College to create a new CNC/ Precision Machining training program designed to address the challenges that women in trades may face. The program prepares participants for entry-level work in the manufacturing sector.



“Right now, women, as well as gender non-binary, trans, and 2-spirit peoples, are massively underrepresented in the trades sector, while at the same time, there is a huge demand for workers with these skills. We want to help shatter this glass ceiling and see more members of these groups have successful careers in this field,” says Steve Vanderherberg, Director of Financial Empowerment with WoodGreen Community Services.

Participants in the program will benefit from WoodGreen’s partnership with industry employers who are committed to making the trades a friendlier and more equitable space for women. They will receive financial support to help them pay for textbooks, transportation, work boots or clothing, safety equipment, and other expenses related to their training.

In less than six months, participants could be ready for an entry-level CNC/Precision Machinist job — a position that involves operating machine tools to create and design machines, parts and other hardware.

To become a CNC operator/precision machinist, participants will need to learn how to safely operate shop equipment, read technical drawings, and use CNC equipment and technology.

This is where WoodGreen can help!

The CNC / Precision Machining Program is made up of three components:


  1. 14 weeks of full-time training with George Brown College. Some classes will be in person and other classes will be online.
  2. After participants have completed their training, WoodGreen will arrange an eight-week paid job placement for participants.
  3. Throughout this program, WoodGreen will provide career planning support.



Why are women hidden and often underrepresented in the skilled trades? What is it like for a woman to work in this industry?

To gain insight and understanding into the types of challenges and experiences that women face in this male-dominated field, WoodGreen’s Training and Evaluation Team conducted two focus groups: one with organizations supporting women in skilled trades, and one with women working in skilled trades.

Findings from the focus groups revealed a variety of workplace challenges and barriers that women in trades need to navigate and overcome in order to feel acknowledged and successful on the job, such as:

  • Being excluded or overlooked because of gender
  • Little representation of women in skilled trades
  • Not feeling welcomed in predominately male workplaces
  • No access to women’s washrooms, changerooms, or lockers
  • Exposure to unsafe working environments and a lack of safety gear suitable for women (i.e., helmets, gloves, vests), and
  • Not receiving support from family when pursuing a skilled trades-related career


“While facilitating the focus groups with women working in skilled trades, I have had many “oh, really!”, “oh, I didn’t know that!”, “um huh, that makes sense!” moments,” said Farzana Propa, Research and Evaluation Coordinator with WoodGreen Community Services. “I learned a lot about existing gendered issues in the sector; the importance of being properly dressed at work; using the right lingo on the floor; and more. We have incorporated these learnings into our training modules at WoodGreen. These will certainly better prepare women pursuing their career as CNC and precision machinist professionals.”


Although this program alone cannot bridge the gender gap in the skilled trades, it is an important first step in exposing young girls and women to skilled trades-related professions.

To address the challenges faced by women in the trades, WoodGreen will:

  1. Provide employment and training supports to assist women in building their confidence and successfully securing employment.
  2. Provide opportunities for participants to connect with and meet women working in the skilled trades. By attending guest lectures and participating in mentorship opportunities, women will gain a better understanding of what to expect from a career in the trades.
  3. Educate and provide resources to employers on best practices to change and diversify the skilled trades industry.


As the representation and recruitment of women in skilled trades continue to be an ongoing process in today’s labour market, WoodGreen is committed to enhancing employer engagement practices so women in the trades can build more successful and rewarding careers in this field.

For more information and details on how to apply to WoodGreen’s CNC / Precision Machining program, visit our page here.


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