Hebron partners pressed to take on tradeswomen

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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If the Hebron partners are looking to address a skilled labour shortage, they need look no further than the hundreds of typically underutilized female apprentices in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is according to the Women in Resource Development Corp. (WRDC) and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA). Both organizations made presentations to the Hebron Public Review Commission at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s Tuesday.

The presentations centred on boosting the number of women involved in the Hebron offshore oil project, but also future megaprojects based in the province.

Executive director for WRDC, Charmaine Davidge, began by applauding Hebron lead ExxonMobil Canada for its support of programs offered through her organization, most promoting the trades and technical careers to young women.

Hebron project partners have also sponsored scholarship programs to encourage students in areas like engineering and skilled trades, as they reach the post-secondary level.

The next step, Davidge suggested, is bringing skilled students through their skilled trades apprenticeships.

Provincially, wage subsidies exist to encourage employers to take on women apprentices earlier in their apprenticeship work, covering 90 per cent for the employer in the first year, said executive director for the OAWA, Karen Walsh.

For an alternative means of advancing tradeswomen through Hebron, it was suggested at least 10 per cent of any apprenticeship spaces at Bull Arm be reserved for female apprentices.

Davidge told The Telegram her organization would like to see the Hebron partners hire female workers before male workers.

That is, for cases wherein a male and female applicant have matching qualifications, or even when a male has somewhat better qualifications than a female candidate, “they should give priority to the female candidate,” Davidge said.

For retention, the emphasis was on providing a comfortable work environment. It was suggested women performing similar work be placed together on a job site. Other suggestions included provision of gender-specific clothing and safety equipment, on-site “diversity officers” and/or a diversity committee for the overall project, flexibility in work scheduling and posters on work sites showing men and women working together.

Kelly Hickey, a program development specialist with OAWA, told the commission accessible child care remains a significant barrier to employment for women.

She said the province has an estimated 6,772 child care spaces, but about 48,227 children with parents in the workforce. “It’s a situation that begs for more attention, more funds.”

To this, the OAWA has suggested the Hebron partners build a new daycare off site for children of workers at Bull Arm. When Hebron moves into its production phase, OAWA states, a daycare could also be built in St. John’s.

If built, the child care centres would become part of Hebron’s legacy, Hickey said, providing a space for children in the community with parents outside of the oil and gas workforce after the project is over.

Hebron project manager Geoff Parker was asked specifically if this suggestion might gain traction with the Hebron proponents.

“The project recognizes child care impacts our workforce and potential workforce and we will continue to participate in discussions with local organizations and governments on this issue,” he said.

Parker told commissioner Miller Ayre prioritizing hiring women was likely, in the most positive sense, a moot point.

“If we have two qualified people, I expect we’ll be employing them both, not choosing between one or the other,” he said.

On overall workforce diversity, Parker said there are provincial and federal regulations to encourage diversity, but ExxonMobil Canada’s own standards go beyond meeting these regulations.

He said recruitment is being supported by way of job advertising through women in trades organizations and outreach initiatives. Research grants, that might be funneled to investigations on work site gender issues, are being provided to Memorial University  and the College of the North Atlantic.

Both the WRDC and OAWA representatives said they plan to follow the employment numbers during Hebron’s development.



Organizations: College of the North Atlantic.Both, WRDC, Resource Development Hebron Public Review Commission Holiday Inn

Geographic location: Hebron, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Judy
    December 02, 2011 - 13:41

    While I applauded the Women in Resource Development Corp. (WRDC) and the Office to Advance Women Apprentice (OAWA) for their efforts to promote employment for women in the trades and addressing the problem for child care; I hope that the issues of diversity and gender equality are not taking a step backwards. Post secondary education has come a long way over the past 30 years with the inclusion of women in the trades and if I were beginning my career again I would certainly consider the skill trades as an option. I currently teach males and females in a skill trades college; this recent article was very timely as our class was discussing the topic of diversity, gender sensitivity, and gender equality. The comments made in the article caused quite a stir. To suggest that the Hebron partners hire female workers before male workers, even when a male has somewhat better qualification, “they should give priority to the female candidate”, is, in my opinion, not gender equality its discrimination. I believe that the best person qualified for the position should be hired; regardless of gender. Another point of interest in the article is that while WRDS and OAWA are promoting male and females working together by posting flyers on the worksite they also suggest “that women performing similar work be placed together on a job site” – this is not workplace diversity it’s exclusion. Mega projects such as Hebron, Long Harbour and Muskrat Falls are our young people’s heritage; we should work side by side respecting all aspects of diversity. Lets not push the envelope too much by overlooking the rights of our male counterparts, females do not want favouritism, hire us for our skills and abilities, not our gender.

  • Cam
    November 30, 2011 - 18:40

    Don II You sir are a male chauvinist, how else are women suppose to get trained, because the men dominated for so long in the trades only telling women they were only good for certain work, wake up man this is not 1950. I am a crane operator and proud of it, went to school along side of young and old, women and men and no one seemed to have an issue with women being trained, we are just as capable as any man and I prove that everyday I am at work!!!!!..

  • Tamara
    November 30, 2011 - 18:36

    It's like men forget who they came from, I hope my son does not turn out like that last person who commented. It completely disgusts me. I love what I do and I work hard, but I also need the opportunity to learn and get experience just like anyone and opportunities are harder to come by for a women and that's just fact. What am I supposed to do stay at home and go on welfare, why can't people just say," Look at her she has a family and she's trying to better herself, good for her. "

  • Jordan
    November 30, 2011 - 18:07

    Don thank you for your great comment and having the courage to speak the truth. This is coming from a woman. The quality of my skilled work speaks for itself and I don't want that taken away. If people think I got where I am because of selective hiring they are wrong. I would rather be challenged more to beat out men, and isn't that the sort of employees companies should be looking for. Those who are driven to learn, improve their skills and take great pride in their work perform better all around and usually work well on a team. I would not want a woman or man on my team who did sloppy work but was hired because they knew the loopholes of the system. I am not saying that future women will be like that. Blind testing works well because your work has to speak for itself and the right person will get hired. I do not understand why more hiring practices are not getting a moment in the light. That also speaks volumes about the two parties in discussions. Initiating hiring preferences will only lead to more prejudices and discrimination down the road. Women will then become the pitfall scapegoat for all thing that go wrong. "We know how she got here" will become more commonplace than "she works hard and deserves this". I ask for more hiring alternatives to be presented, and those that test and hire fairly should gain the attention. Hopefully practices which strive to hire fairly will be adopted and that will lead to a better work environment for all.

  • Sly
    November 30, 2011 - 15:48

    "That is, for cases wherein a male and female applicant have matching qualifications, or even when a male has somewhat better qualifications than a female candidate, “they should give priority to the female candidate,” Davidge said."........ Wow, when does the "men in trades" office open so we can be treated fairly??

  • Willy
    November 30, 2011 - 11:15

    There is always a labor shortage when the people looking for work don't fit the mold of the one's who are hiring male or female.

  • Don II
    November 30, 2011 - 10:13

    So, the men train the women to do the work and the men get passed over for the jobs in favor of the women, is that it? Isn't that reverse discrimination? You get the pleasure of training a woman who will take your job from you! Experienced and competent male workers will not get jobs because a bunch of inexperienced and under qualified female trainees without access to Government funded daycare will be given preferred treatment to get the jobs long enough to qualify for maternity leave. Forget the affirmative action and political correctness, this madness has to stop. It is no wonder why the cost of completing projects has gone through the roof and the quality of the work has gone through the floor!

    • Brian
      November 30, 2011 - 18:15

      Yes DonII, well put. They've driven the men out of the education system, the universities, and now they are setting their sights on the trade schools. It is all part and parcel of Smashing the Patriarchy, which literally means destroying fathers and sons. It is being done on purpose, so you had better get used to the Marxist-Leninist Socialist Matriarchal Utopia which has been prepared for you and I and all men. In order to create an utopia, you have to create an hell for someone.