By Minal Abhange
Growing up with four brothers, Cindy Clarke was used to being around machines and tools.
But she never imagined she would be empowering other women to build new futures in trades.
“I had feminist principles as a young girl. I felt like I grew up in a community that was boy dominated. When I moved to British Columbia (B.C.), I witnessed a very accepting culture. There were very few strict lines in terms of gender. Women drove trucks and school busses,” she says.
It was this experience in B.C. that ultimately influenced her career path. When Cindy learned about the Orientation to Trades and Technology (OTT) program developed by Women in Resource Development Corporation (WRDC), her journey began.
She returned to Newfoundland in 2000 and became actively involved in the OTT programs offered at College of the North Atlantic (CNA). Since then she has held several roles teaching and advocating careers in trades for women.
“In 2000, when I was an instructor, the program opened up so many options for women, including training and work. It also gave rural women confidence to talk about the barriers and equip them with tools to overcome them.”
Cindy now works as an Instructor – Academic Communications, and she says, “wearing the hard hat not only brings a lot of confidence, I am encouraged to advocate for women more. I strive to reach out to women in trades. I introduce myself give them all the contact information for the Office of Women Apprentices and for Women in Resource Development Corporation. I show them where all the scholarships are, and I tell them about the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) particularly.”
For many women, OTT can be the first step towards an exciting, new and well-paying career. There are seven major components in the program: academic; essential work skills; personal and professional development; hands-on skills development; exploration of the natural resource sector, labour market research; and job shadowing.
“I have excelled personally and professionally. I have connected with many industry experts, businesses and non-profits agencies on several forums across Canada. Just like the students, I was empowered when I drove a dozer and an excavator, or made a bread box. It allowed me to be creative and try new things in all aspects of my life. I encouraged my own children to be confident in using tools and found camps for them that let them feel the power of new experiences.”
Cindy has also been actively involved in assisting students find jobs in their fields, and educating them about the scholarships available from the CWB which has developed the Mind over Metal camp for young girls through a partnership with Esteem Women Inc.
Cindy’s passion carries over to her students. So what is her message to those who aspire to a career in the trades?
“Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. It is never too late for you to decide what you want to do for a career. There is high demand for skilled labour across Canada, and it will continue to exist for the foreseeable future,” she says.
Cindy knows first-hand experiences from being both a student and a teacher.
“Today women aspiring careers in trade have a very supporting environment. The classes are co-ed and more hands-on associated with soft skills, giving women the tools to build confidence and a strong career.”