Manitoba’s skilled trades and technology sector is experiencing significant labour shortages, and RRC Polytech graduates – including those from underrepresented groups – are the key to sustaining and strengthening its workforce.
That was the message delivered to more than 250 students attending the kick-off event for National Skilled Trade and Technology Week at the Notre Dame Campus on November 2. A panel of industry reps who spoke at the event said they hope to build a stronger workforce by embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (EDI) across the sector.
For instance, speakers at the event described how companies are changing the way they operate – by designing gender-appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment, updating hiring practices and policies, supporting employees from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and more.
“So much has changed in our industry over the past 10 years. Companies have come to recognize that a strong, sustainable future depends on attracting and supporting people from groups often underrepresented in the trades, including women, Indigenous people, new Canadians, and people with disabilities,” says Derek Kochenash, Dean, School of Skilled Trades and Technologies at RRC Polytech. “As Manitoba’s only polytechnic, we have a critical role to play in bridging those gaps.”
The event was sponsored by RBC Future Launch as part of its Reaction By Collision series in partnership with RRC Polytech. Its goal was to build connections between skilled trades and technologies students and representatives from 16 companies that hire graduates in those fields.
“The world needs talent who believe in the power of their dreams like never before. Canada stands at the cross-roads as we look to a horizon with the potential to shine bright through a restart,” shares Raj Patel, Vice President, RBC. “To reach this horizon, Canada needs the people and skills to build and innovate for the future economy. This is particularly true when speaking to skilled trades and technology. But none of us can go it alone. We are at our absolute best when we go together. That is why we at RBC proudly partner with Red River College Polytechnic in delivering RBC Reaction by Collision.”
One of the event panelists was Jamie McMillan from KickAss Careers, who became an ironworker in 2002 when women only represented two per cent of the workforce across Canada and the United States. She talked about the strong determination it took to keep going and the people who didn’t let her give up.
For CNC Machinist Technician student Jesse Lindsey, the event affirmed his own convictions about the importance of EDI in the workplace.
“An interest in working with your hands is not limited to any sex, race, or creed,” he says. “I’m happy to see those who would otherwise feel unwelcome be encouraged to follow their passion.”
Automotive Technician student Mithat Singh says she spoke to several industry reps who highlighted promising career opportunities for women in a range of fields. She moved to Canada from India for a hands-on education that would hit the gas on her employment options.
“I’m the only woman in my class, but I’m treated like an equal. I’m excited that I could turn my love of luxury sports cars into a career after this.”
For Automotive Technician student Leon Mann, the event opened his eyes to opportunities outside his field he might consider pursuing after he graduates.
“My ultimate goal, however, is to return to my home community in Lake Manitoba First Nation with the certification I need to run my own garage and pass on what I’ve learned to others.” On the same day, RBC Future Launch also sponsored a parallel event at RRC Polytech’s Stevenson Aviation Winnipeg campus. There, panelists and representatives from several local, national, and international aviation, aerospace, and manufacturing companies underscored the wealth of opportunities available for qualified workers in those fields and related disciplines.