Doing The Work: A
Feminist Perspective On
by Hannah Hadikein
In the spring of 1989, Canadian Jobs Strategies (CJS), funded a project called TechPrep for Women, offering women preparatory training for advanced technical-based occupations. This article discusses the problems, objectives, methods and outcomes related to planning and implementing programs of this nature through the private sector. The TechPrep Program was launched after a lengthy gestation (spanning three West Coast summers), a painful delivery and a difficult but successful birth.
From its beginning, TechPrep was conceived as an effective model for bridging women into technological jobs specifically, as well as into occupations traditionally reserved for men. It was designed as a five month job re-entry program which would prepare women to enter a two-year Engineering Technology program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). After successful completion of the TechPrep course, women could choose from among the following options at BCIT: Civil Technologies, Computer Systems, Electronics, Mechanical Design and Manufacturing, Process Technologies, and Biological Sciences.
Before the systemic barriers could be addressed, however, several barriers to planning had to be overcome. Unique problems for training in technology include: uncertainty of labour market demand; scarcity of qualified instructional staff (especially those willing to work under contract with sporadic hours and no guarantee of program continuity); lack of curricula that are industry-skill level based; lack of industrial, community, or institutional organizations which support technical training projects; lack of training models (though some existing programs serve as stepping stones); scarce information regarding the needs of high tech industry; and lack of an analysis which recognizes gender inequalities.
Research into women's access to education and training in Canada unequivocally confirms that women are confronted with a number of barriers which are systemic in nature: educational disadvantages, lack of support services (affordable, quality child care) lack of economic means for upgrading and training, streaming of women into poorly paid and undervalued job areas, lack of responsiveness by educational institutions to the unique characteristics of adult women learners, and prevailing attitudes about the gender of an occupation or women's appropriate roles in and outside the paid labour force.