BC Centre for Women in the Trades’ (BCCWITT) Karen Dearlove has spent the last three years in the role of executive director, guiding the organization’s efforts to create more inclusive and welcoming environments for BC’s women working in the trades.

Dearlove’s past experiences include a passion for developing diverse, equitable workplaces with opportunities for women entering the trades and, combined with her experience in a number of trades-related positions, resulted in her joining BCCWITT in 2021. Despite a small team of just seven employees, BCWITT’s services are vast and include peer support, mentorship, training and volunteering skills training, employment opportunities and more.

“A lot of the services that BCCWITT provide on a day-to-day basis make big impacts on people’s lives,” said Dearlove. “We have trades training and employment programs where we help bring women into the trades and get them referred to first apprenticeships. A lot of these women have also come from precarious employment and are really looking to make a big transition in their lives. One of the programs that can help those women is Be More Than A Bystander (BMTAB).”

BMTAB is a training and educational program supporting organizational and cultural shifts towards more welcoming, healthy, safe and respectful workplaces. Participants are equipped with practical tools and strategies to intervene and end cycles of bullying, harassment, and violence in the skilled trades. Since 2011, the program has trained more than 225,000 people in British Columbia. In addition to BMTAB, BCCWITT provides grants, training and resources ranging from workplace safety to volunteer opportunities.

“We really see BCCWITT as a hub of resources and supports,” added Dearlove. “We have a resource page which we update quite regularly, and we’re really focused on becoming a central hub where people can get the information that they need.”

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BCCWITT’s services and resources all play a role in the organization’s efforts to create a more inclusive environment for women in the trades and indirectly, trades workplaces in general. Dearlove stresses the need for changes in the workplace and overall culture surrounding female-specific Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and workwear, washroom facilities and childcare-related options and services. Addressing these areas are not only necessary from an equitable workplace standpoint, but for the sustainability of BC’s construction industry as a whole.

“The onus is really on employers to not just think about recruiting, but also retaining and helping to build up and train up that workforce so that there will be Red Seal workers in the future,” concluded Dearlove. “But, you have to think about how to do that now. Bringing in apprentices, changing workplace culture, finding ways to be more accommodating are all really important issues that we need to address in order to make those changes.”

To learn more about BC Centre for Women in the Trades, please visit BCCWITT.ca. For more information on the work being done by the Construction Foundation of BC and to donate, please visit www.constructionfoundation.ca.

Featured image: (BCCWITT))

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