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It is important to have a happy, diverse workforce in wood manufacturing

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WMC by Lynn Mackinlay
Lynn MacKinlay is Succeeding President of the Wood Manufacturing Council.
In my first article as the president of the Wood Manufacturing Council, I want to amplify a new initiative from the Native Women’s Association 
of Canada (NWAC)
NWAC was born 
50 years ago and has been leading important work in furthering the advancement 
of Indigenous women, 
Two Spirit, transgender and gender diverse Indigenous people across Canada. 
NWAC is now offering a new initiative to support Indigenous women, Two Spirit, transgender and gender diverse Indigenous people entering construction and manufacturing red seal trades.
As a woman who has worked in non-traditional career paths for most of my life, I have had many challenges and barriers. I have also talked with many female peers across Canada who have also had difficult experiences ranging from unwelcome touch or comments, to not being hired with excellent qualifications, or to being the first let go on a layoff. My experience in working in three provinces for more than 20 years on the tools, is that most people in the trade were male and white. 99.9% of the time, I was the only woman in my shop or job site. While I have many stories of discrimination, I too have had enduring friendships and wonderful mentors who I continue to be in touch with from my journey as a cabinetmaker. I have a great passion for skilled trades in general and wood manufacturing in particular, and I continue to feel that despite the challenges, having a career in our industry can be rewarding, offer the ability to be self reliant and, contribute to having an enriched life.
There is more talk now in industry to consider and welcome a diverse workforce than ever before. For example, the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) is currently holding fact finding sessions across Canada, to explore diversity and barriers in manufacturing. There are many philosophies for why it is important to have a diverse workforce in any sector. One perspective is a business case for diversity. From Shakil Choudhury’s book Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us Versus Them:” …this approach focuses on the bottom-line benefits of a diverse, inclusive workforce. This strategy is beneficial in attracting buy-in by senior decision makers.” Further, some organizations are bound by legislation to eliminate hurdles to entry and address discrimination. These organizations may be instituting diversity measures by being legislated to do so, whether because of responding to changing government legislation or, because of accountability measures due to human rights violations. These strategies may help with dictating removing barriers, they do not address the root challenges to entry or advancement and whether there is actually a work
culture that welcomes diversity and takes actions to remove roadblocks immediately 
when encountered.
I prefer a philosophy that values having under-represented people in wood manufacturing because it is simply the right thing to do. I want to eliminate exclusivity and contribute to having every space be welcoming to folks such as women, Indigenous people, people of colour and 2SLBTQ+ people. Everyone with a passion and skills in wood manufacturing should have the opportunity to enter, stay and advance in the career path of their choosing without barriers and experience unwelcoming spaces. Further, it has been well documented; a diverse, engaged work force in any organization makes for a stronger, smarter and enriched workplace.
There is not a lot of data in wood manufacturing regarding the participation of people of colour, newcomers, black and Indigenous people or gender diverse people. We are woefully in need of current LMI and specific data on diversity in the sector workforce. Speaking from experience, the majority of workspaces in wood manufacturing are not integrated and diverse. There is much work to do to have a diverse workforce across the whole system in wood manufacturing. There are more statistics for the presence of women in general in wood manufacturing. According to the Wood Manufacturing Council: Canada’s Advanced Wood Manufacturing Sector: 2015-2016 Labour Market Information Update, women represent around 23 per cent of the work force. While this is low for women obviously, more so, the majority of this 23 per cent are roles that continued to be traditional roles for women. Only 4 to 6 per cent of women are on the tools in the shop environment. Further, as stated in the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Submission to Ministry of Labour Changing Workplace Review September 18, 2015, “Female workers also face unique intersecting forms of discrimination and harassment tied to their race, creed, marital status and disability among other grounds that can have an even greater negative impact.” For example, the challenges for women who are Indigenous, racialized, have a disability, are 2SLBTQ+, the barriers are greater and are compounded in their work life.
There are many fronts to tackle shortfalls for having a happy, diverse workforce in wood manufacturing. The Native Women’s Association of Canada is offering a program to support Indigenous women and gender diverse Indigenous folks entering apprenticeship in skilled trades, including apprenticeship in cabinetmaking. The National Apprenticeship Program (NAP) offers a virtual information session to find out more about the program. This information session is concise and informative, and I recommend attending. I share this program here to amplify the work of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and hope to impact the enrollment of Indigenous women in wood manufacturing apprenticeship.
In conversation with Lauralea Eldridge the National Engagement Coordinator & NAP Industry Liaison she shared, “NAP helps open the doors of opportunity for new first-year apprentices and partners with businesses to provide valuable work experience. We 
also provide employers with funding and information resources for culturally safe training and work practices.”

From the information in 
NWAC documents:
The NAP program has applicants looking to start a new apprenticeship towards their Red Seal Certification. The program is geared towards affirmative action and helping Indigenous women and gender diverse people gain apprenticeships in the Red Seal Trades. The NAP program is seeking businesses in manufacturing and construction Red Seal trades who are ready and willing to mentor new skilled trades laborers/apprentices.
NAP is holding online information sessions to learn more about the financial support.
If you are ready to take on a new apprentice in the near future or in the new year-please take a moment to register below.

And if you or someone you know wants to be an apprentice here is the link to apply.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada is offering a comprehensive program to support employers to hire and mentor Indigenous Women and gender diverse apprentices including a road map. As Lauralea shared, “for SMEs looking to scale profitable market ready businesses through talent development strategies using government incentives and stimulus measures.”  

Thank you to Lauralea for this information. The NAP program is available for any organization that meets these criteria:
Your business is eligible for up to $20,000 in grants if it:
• Has 499 or fewer paid employees.
• Has the facilities and equipment to adequately transfer skills to the apprentice(s).
• Can meet any regulations applying to your trade, such as wage rates and ratios.

By participating in NWAC’s NAP your business will have access to:
• $10,000 in funding for up to two apprenticeship positions each year, for a maximum of $20,000 annually.
• The NAP job board to connect directly with potential apprentices.
• Resources for providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people.

This is a terrific opportunity to receive support for apprenticeship and fulfill values of inclusivity and offering welcoming spaces in our industry. Lauralea’s comment on a diverse workforce encapsulates this philosophy: “We are looking for business owners who understand that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is the first step to building a workforce where all Canadians have fair access to job opportunities.” If you have further questions, you can reach out:  

Lauralea Eldridge
120 Prom. du Portage
Gatineau, QC J8X 2K1
Mobile: (613)302-7560

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