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Diversifying Canada's Skilled Trades

How Skills Ontario Is Helping to Build a Diverse and Skilled Workforce

Skills ontario header image
Skills ontario header image
Photos courtesy of Skills Ontario

Since 1999, Skills Ontario has been dedicated to creating equal opportunities for career paths in the skilled trades.

Skills Ontario has been running the Young Women’s Initiatives since 1999 and the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) Initiatives since 2011. In 2021, we took a more holistic look at who we impact and our range of events, resources, and tools. Then we got to work making our programming, activities, and resources more inclusive and impactful. As a result, we achieved our best year yet for hiring and retaining staff from under-represented communities, and we developed a wide variety of new programming to better support youth across Ontario. 

People gathered on a basketball court_Skills Ontario

Skills Ontario also took action to create more flexible and accessible programming while prioritizing creating equal opportunities for all youth through accessible and inclusive programs. We’re committed to removing barriers and serving all Ontarians through opportunities to explore their career pathways. As a not-for-profit organization, we strive to build a diverse and inclusive skilled workforce. 

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation are top priorities for Skills Ontario. We look forward to continuing to work with communities across Ontario to ensure that we provide equal opportunities for all youth and build a diverse and robust workforce in skilled trades and technologies. 

We aim to engage with youth and young adults, particularly from the Black, Persons of Colour, Newcomers, Persons with Exceptionalities, Indigenous, those that identify as Female, and other under-represented communities to assist in navigating pathways to a successful and fulfilling career and in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Group of children gathered in a room_Skills Ontario

Since 1999, Skills Ontario has had tailored programming specifically for those that identify as female. Skills Ontario’s Young Women’s Initiatives provide events and opportunities for young women between 11–18 to explore the skilled trades and technologies in a safe, engaging, and interactive environment. Through each event, young women will learn about different careers possible in the skilled trades and technologies and see representation in those careers as they hear from other women in those industries. During each event, young women will have the opportunity to participate in different hands-on workshops that explore the different day-to-day tasks of skilled trades careers and network with women in the industry, seeing and knowing that these careers are for everyone. Each year, Young Women’s Initiatives reaches over 10,000 young women through in-person and virtual events. 

In 2011, Skills Ontario created a First Nation, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) Initiatives program. Through our first FNMI Initiatives, we do our best to ensure that our programs are led by and inclusive of Indigenous Peoples. As we connect youth to Indigenous community members, we develop and deliver programs with this as our top priority. Skills Ontario is dedicated to respecting Indigenous culture; we try to employ Indigenous Peoples in positions relating to FNMI youth where possible and consult with local First Nations communities when we run events in their area, seeking mentors, elders, and youth to participate.

Diversity equity and inclusion events chart_Skills Ontario

In 2022, Skills Ontario hosted a new series of events that were linked to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programming as seen in Figure 1.

In 2021–2022, over 15,000 youth participated in Skills Ontario’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programming, as seen in Figure 1. 

After participating, over 85% of students were more interested in pursuing a career in skilled trades and technologies. Feedback also indicates that the program is in demand and well-received in communities. 

Children learning carperntry_Skills Ontario

Skills Ontario’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion perspectives: 

  • To create programming using a compassionate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lens. 
  • Demonstrate what successful DEI programming should look like — spearhead progressive and innovative initiatives and for Skills Ontario to be recognized as a leader in the field. 
  • Demonstrate programs incorporating various pedagogical methods — i.e., present, reflect, and participate — and align with the Ontario curriculum. Carefully considers how the program can effectively reach the maximum number of youths with valuable and in-depth learning opportunities. 
  • Meet and exceed organization and stakeholder goals. 
  • Strengthen relationships with stakeholders. 
  • Establish a strong baseline to continue and grow from. 

Skills Ontario will be hosting its Umoja Series in February. This event is for Black youth, parents, and guardians but is open to all. It will include discussions about mental health, the stigma of suffering from mental health in the workplace, where to get further help and information on how to find an apprenticeship, steps to apply, and details on financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

The participation of persons belonging to under-represented populations in all aspects of the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the country where they live is, in fact, essential to preserving their identity and combating social exclusion. Skills Ontario is striving onward in that preservation, and we look forward to continuing to support and empower all people in their exploration of skilled trades and technologies.

For more information on all of Skills Ontario’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programming, as well as Summer Camps, Trades & Tech Days, Trades & Tech Truck, the provincial Skills Ontario Competition, and more, please visit skillsontario.com/dei.

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