My name is Genevieve Ellis and I am a Boilermaker Welder and member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 128 Ontario. I had the amazing opportunity to attend #SWiT2022 in beautiful St John’s Newfoundland from June 1-4. I attended this conference with my mentor, friend and fellow Boilermaker Welder, Christine Hahn. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership and sponsorship from Aecon and the Women’s Committee of The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 128. The conference had MANY great highlights, there were lots of great presentations put on by tradeswomen across the country. It was great to see all the different initiatives put on by various provinces to help attract and retain women in the skilled trades. The presentation that touched me the most was Candice Carnahan the keynote speaker. She spoke about her workplace injury and how just a simple change in workplace culture and stepping up to talk about safety would have prevented her injury all together. As someone who was hurt at work it really touched me to the core, especially as she was recounting how all her fellow co-workers and family were touched by just one slight misstep she took.
This was the first tradeswoman conference I have attended and hopefully will not be my last. I think these events are very important for networking, outreach, to share ideas (what works, what doesn’t work), to speak about solidarity, to support one another and to educate not just ourselves but our workplace ally’s as well. I encourage every tradeswoman to attend some sort of event. The impact of just having other tradeswomen to share experiences with, thoughts, ideas, stories, triumphs and laughs is invaluable. Many tradeswomen work in an environment where they may feel isolated, or they may be the only woman who works there. The #SWiT2022 had over 300 participants which was the most tradeswomen in one room I think I ever will encounter. There were so many shared experiences, it was very inspiring and eye opening to me. As a journeyperson I have invaluable tools that I can share with other tradeswomen not only through my Women’s Committee at my Local but also through mentoring programs and sharing my personal experiences with apprentices.
What I did learn from #SWiT2022 is that some provinces offer great programs for the skilled trades and for women and newcomers to Canada to have opportunities for free tools, learning and employment opportunities. I would love to see some of these programs become more common knowledge in Ontario as we have a large workforce and a large work scope but I feel in our province trades in general is underrepresented. I also personally felt like the Boilermaker trade as well as Welding was slightly undersold, I am a little biased, but I am so proud to be a Boilermaker Welder and a Member of Local 128 Ontario. It also was reaffirmed to me at #SWiT2022 that when women get involved and women’s voices get heard that overall productivity, workplace culture and work satisfaction increases. This only proves to me that women belong in the skilled trades and skilled trades is a viable and prosperous career for women.