by the Women's
by Ingrid Wellmeier
In collaboration with the Transitions Research Committee of the Women's Reference Group (to the Canadian Labour Force Development Board) Ingrid Wellmeier conducted research to identify training issues, name barriers, and develop minimum criteria specific to the constituency of women. All four equity groups represented on the CLFDB -- women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and members of visible minorities -- have conducted similar research.
For over two decades, Canadian women have been working individually and as members of community groups to establish training programs for women to enter or re-enter the workforce. The necessity for these programs is demonstrated by women's lack of access to the full range of college, university, and apprenticeship training and education programs. Women are concentrated in the lowest paying occupations, in service and clerical work, are the majority of the poor, and bear most of the responsibility for children.
In spite of the extensive expertise available on successful training programs that provide academic upgrading, skills training and links to the workplace for women, these programs have not become an accepted or established part of the Canadian training system. Instead, if they exist at all, they rely on considerable and often unpaid efforts by local individuals and groups who must initiate and validate their work over and over again.
Outstanding training programs that are functioning are currently under significant threat in terms of their on-going funding as well as in the eligibility criteria for participants. In many cases, programs are no longer allowed to serve anyone except unemployment insurance recipients while in other areas the very legitimacy of women-only programs is under question.
Programs designed and implemented exclusively for women have evolved as a direct result of women's particular needs and responsibilities. Women tend to be poorer and to have more family responsibilities; they have less confidence, have been exposed to a narrower range of skills and options in the school system and experience larger gaps in their employment history. Immigrant women have fewer options for learning English or French as a second language and all women are vulnerable to violence and to discrimination in their workplaces, in the form of sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and homophobia.