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Demystifying heavy construction key to recruiting women

There are good, well-paying jobs and careers for women in heavy construction, and companies are ready to take your resumes, two industry leaders said on International Women’s Day March 8.

The heavy construction industry is working to attract, educate, train and recruit young women, but it has some ways to go to get the word out, said MHCA Board Chair Nicole Chabot.

Chabot, vice-president of L. Chabot Enterprises, and past Chair Colleen Munro, president of the Munro Group, were interviewed Monday on CBC radio.

CBC Interview – Nicole Chabot & Colleen Munro, March 8, 2021

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Chabot told Faith Fundal, CBC radio host of Up to Speed. “I think there’s a need to highlight the success stories to really put that in front of people and especially young girls and women and have them know that there’s lots of opportunity here for them.”

Munro agreed, stressing it has to start in the schools, where career choices are being made.

Munro also took part in a news conference Monday with Status of Women Minister Cathy Cox at the legislature, where they spoke about the introduction to heavy construction course MHCA is part of at the River East Transcona School Division. Fourteen young women are taking the 30-hour high school course, which aims to place them for work experience this construction season.

“Our industry is a great provider of good wages and benefits,” Munro said, noting that’s not true of many traditionally female-dominated industries.

Fundal asked the two industry leaders about barriers to entry for women – the perception that construction is dangerous work and, given child care remains disproportionately a woman’s responsibility, how they can manage that with the demanding hours.

Heavy construction is primarily seasonal and so the days are long and, with access to day care being a challenge, women in the field need a strong support network, Chabot said.

Munro said the construction industry has well-developed education, safety and health programs that deliver training at all levels of the industry — employers, managers and through the labour force — to ensure safety is the first concern on the job.

The industry needs to demystify the perception that the work is unsafe, she said, noting there’s been a cultural shift to ensure respectful workplaces.

Women bring unique characteristics to the workplace that the industry really needs – they tend to be more attentive to instructions and to safety rules and are more respectful of equipment, Munro noted.

“There’s so much growth and innovation going on now,” Chabot said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in a career in construction to get in now, but certainly our young women out there.”