Promoting Equality
Through Learning

by Linda A. MacDonald

In January of this year, the Nova Scotia committee of CCLOW invited representatives of various departments of the provincial government and of Canada Employment and Immigration to a symposium on Bridging Programs for Women. This program is a new approach to delivery and organization which has been developed by the Saskatchewan committee of CCLOW and which has since been implemented in Saskatchewan. This innovative approach was developed to enhance the participation of women in publicly funded training. It will also diminish the impact of barriers such as child care, low training allowances and low participation rates in training courses most likely to lead to employment.

The Bridging Program, described by Carol Ariano, CCLOW Saskatchewan Director, has three main objectives: the provision of the necessary support services, appropriate program components, and on-going evaluation. Support services are essential to help overcome the barriers to successful participation in education, training, and employment. These include counseling on course selection, follow-up counseling after course selection, self-help groups, and links to other community services. Good planning has also meant attention to accessibility factors such as flexible scheduling, extended hours of operation, and transportation.

Among the appropriate program components of the Bridging Program are assessment of education level and vocational skills and goals; a workshop on vocational planning and employment options; participation in upgrading programs, such as pre-trades and pre-technology; entrepreneurial and business skills workshops; and job clubs and work experience.


The implementation of the Bridging Program was founded on documentation that the participation of women in publicly funded training has been declining since 1979, the date of the National Training Act. Over the past five years, women's participation rates have declined by a total of 20.9% in institutional training and 17.2% in industrial training. In 1981-83, only 3% of apprentices were women; of that, only 0.7% were registered in non-traditional occupations, a total of 468 women across Canada.

Yet 52% of women were in the labor force in 1982, and currently women account for 42.7% of all workers. Women are expected to account for 70% of the growth of the Canadian labour force over the next ten years.

Nova Scotia enrolments for 1984-85 in publicly funded training differ from the national perspective only in degree. Where as 47% of female enrolments are in pre-skill courses, the least expensive training to operate, in contrast with 15% male pre-skill enrolments; nearly 83% of male enrolments are in trades and technology courses, the very courses most likely to lead directly to employment, and courses which require heavy expenditures because of the equipment and environment in which the training must take place.

With such disparities in opportunity for training for employment, it is difficult to foresee how equity in the workplace in terms of economic reward, career development, job security, and retirement security can become a reality for 52% of the population. This inequity is even greater for those who are disabled, members of visible minorities, or native people.


One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission Report "Equality in Employment" is that there should be "more bridging programs, pre-trades and on-the-job training programs, and more local training in remote areas."

Bridging Programs are the requisite step in enabling women and other disadvantaged groups to perceive new opportunities, to acquire new skills, and to achieve a new equality in equal pay for work of equal value.

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