Supporting our workforce

We need women in the trades. By 2030, the construction industry is expected to see 259,100 retirements and 228,100 new entrants, reports BuildForce Canada, which provides labour market information and programs for the construction industry. “Although the outlook shows slower growth over the long term, all provinces will continue to grapple with an aging labour force and the need to replace almost 259,100 workers, or 22 per cent of the current labour force,” according to a BuildForce Canada report released on March 26. We are missing out on half the workforce if we forget about our women.

Recently, I interviewed the co-founders of a new association looking at supporting women who are currently in the sector and those looking to join the industry—the association is called Women in HVAC/R Canada. The idea behind the association is to support women in the trades, whether or not you are a woman yourself, it doesn’t matter. Anyone wanting to support women in the trades can join.

Attracting females to the industry will only be half the battle. Once we see an increase in the number of skilled workers, we still need to retain them. This will mean working together, as a whole, to support those looking at entering the trades.

Those already in the industry will have to make room. Nathalie Brooks, owner of Brooks Heating & Air and co-founder of Women in HVAC/R Canada, said it best, “We need to teach our boys and our men how to handle being around women in the trades.” This is where groups like Women in HVAC/R might be instrumental in helping in the transition. By having tradespeople working together to create an inclusive environment, no matter their gender, this will help create a place for safe dialogue on best practices.

Bringing in more females to the sector isn’t just important because of the aging workforce. By increasing the pool of potential employees, companies will be able to attract, in theory, better talent.

As a female in the trades, speaking with other women in the industry about ways of supporting one another is quite empowering. “It's ridiculous how whenever we attend events, we’ll be like one of three women representing the industry,” said Shelley Vallée-Ewing, district sales manager, GTA West and Southwestern Ontario at Vista Services. “We're only one of a handful of ladies, but at the same time, why is that still happening? All of these events tend to be catered towards the men in the audience. It is definitely very much an old boys club, and you can see it time and time again. We want to see a fresh face.”

For more information about Women in HVAC/R Canada, please visit


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