Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω
RBC Foundation has committed $700,000 to support women in trades at TRU. The funding, announced Feb. 12, is the largest donation RBC has granted in B.C., outside the Lower Mainland. Graham MacLachlan, RBC’s regional president in B.C., said RBC usually donates $6 million throughout the province, with $1 million going to education.
With Canada reaching a skilled labour shortage in trades, vice president of corporate citizenship for RBC Shari Austin said it’s important to “reach out” to demographics that haven’t traditionally held those jobs. Of course, achieving career goals comes with obstacles stemming from the financial burden of rent, tuition and often childcare.
“RBC Foundation’s gift is directly aimed at helping women who want to overcome these kinds of barriers,” Austin said.
The donation will fund the three aspects of the RBC Women in Trades Training Program. It includes the RBC Bursary for Learning Success, a $3,000 bursary granted to seven students each year. Seventy bursaries will be awarded over the next ten years.
Another program will see six women trained as volunteers to guide other women enrolled in trades programs at TRU. The RBC mentorship coordinator will also support women enrolled in TRU’s trades programs.
“When the university came to us with a proposal to support this program, we saw an opportunity to make a real difference,” Austin said. “We particularly liked the approach taken, which includes both financial support through bursaries to help pay for things like rent food and childcare, tools, but it also includes non-financial assistance through recruiting and mentoring from volunteers.”
Pipefitting student Kayla Goertzen spoke on behalf of the women who will be the first to benefit from the funding. The mother of three shared her personal struggle with finding the balance between work, family and school.
“My biggest setback has always been time,” she said. “There just isn’t enough time to be a mom and student and make money and get a little sleep. Now, thanks to RBC, I don’t have to sacrifice anymore. I don’t have to choose.”
Metal fabrication student Tina Malkie, automotive mechanic student Kelly Roshinsky and commercial transport mechanic student Jamie Gainsforth also received funding through the RBC Women in Trades Training program.
Dean of trades Lindsay Langill said the percentage of women enrolled in trades programs has grown from three per cent to almost 20 per cent since he became dean five years ago. Langill credited Heather Hamilton, the manager of industry and contract training and the trades instructors for supporting the opportunity for women to get involved in skilled trades and ensure “the opportunity of equity was there for all.”
“That has been a cultural change that we have evoked in our system, and how we do business,” Langill said.