Building Foundations for Technical
by Marcia Braundy
Early in 1992, the WITT (Women in Trades and Technology) National Network--advocates for women in trades, technology, operations and blue collar work--developed national content and program development standards for courses for women interested in exploring these non-traditional occupations. WITT included in these guidelines not only the measurable tasks, competencies and technical skills necessary, but also more integrative skills in personal and professional development that enhance critical thinking and troubleshooting abilities both within and outside the working environment.
WITT women and their advocates have been working a long time on these issues and possess extensive knowledge and experience related to pre-trades training for women. From the development of the first pre-trades programs in Winnipeg and Saskatoon in the mid seventies and early eighties, through curriculum and relational learning work at Fanshawe College in London used around Ontario and the country in the 1980s, through a formalized curriculum guide and resource book published by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education in 1987, WITT women have a history of identifying needs and developing effective programming to assist women in gaining challenging, satisfying and economically sustainable employment in fields where they have been under-represented.
In 1988, Kootenay WITT and Karyo Communications carried out a survey of the graduates of exploratory courses in trades and technology for women (often called WITT courses but known by several other names as well). That study clearly demonstrated the success of this kind of pre-training. At the time of the survey, 63% of the graduates were employed and another 13% were in technical training. With 47% working in a trade or technical area and many of the others in operational jobs, even those who chose to enter clerical or managerial work indicated that the self-esteem and self-confidence gained especially from learning tool skills, as well as the personal and professional skill, development, enabled them to pursue their current occupational choices (1).
This survey, contracted by Employment and Immigration Canada (EIC), indicated that during 1983-87, there was a spectrum of programs being delivered, varying in length (from six to thirty-two weeks), technical content (one to eight weeks of technical shop time), and quality of personal and career development skills provided. The report identified a number of recommendations for EIC at the national, provincial, and local levels, as well as for provincial governments and college administrations (2).