It’s not every day that a local union gets three-quarters of a million dollars, but that’s what happened to Vancouver, British Columbia, Local 213. On April 11, the B.C. government announced $750,000 for two partnerships that will enhance mentorship for women and apprentices in the skilled trades.

The funding Vancouver, British Columbia, Local 213 received will improve mentorship for apprentices and women. Pictured here are Local 213 members volunteering at a women’s shelter: Beckly Lupton, left, Ticha Albino, Shauneen Clark, Hilary Do, Sandra Brynjolfson, Marilyn Córdoba, Poonam Mistry, Lisa Langevin, Stephanie Jang.

The funding, which will go to Local 213, the Electrical Joint Training Committee and other partner organizations, will fund two studies. One will look at mentorship for apprentices and one will assess the issues facing women in the trades. The apprenticeship study will receive CA$350,000 and the study for women will receive CA$400,000. The EJTC is comprised of members of Local 213, among other partners.

While mentoring and apprenticeships have been around a long time, hard data on their effectiveness is scant. Local 213, the EJTC and their partners will be pioneering this area of research, something that will benefit all trades and mentorship programs.

“This is great news,” said Andy Cleven, training director for the Electrical Joint Training Committee. “We know mentorship makes a difference but the question is what level of difference. It’s never been studied before, and now we can make that happen.”

The EJTC will work with a data company to develop the apprenticeship study, and the EJTC will manage the program.

“We want to quantify and qualify the effects of mentorship and the transfer of knowledge,” Cleven said. “Right now we only have anecdotal data.”

Local 213’s current program, called “mentorship matters,” addresses both mentors and mentees and includes training on communication. Cleven says there can be huge losses in productivity from misunderstanding and miscommunication.

“I’ve been in the trade for 44 years but never learned how to be a mentor,” Cleven said. “We need to change that and this funding will help us do it.”

When Lisa Langevin, co-chair of Local 213’s women's committee, lobbied with her sisters in Build Together, an organization that promotes women in the trades, she was told to come back with a plan. So she did. About a year after that, they were awarded CA$400,000 to make it happen.

“We were all women on the tools,” said Langevin of herself and the others who lobbied. “I think it helped our case since we come directly from the trades.”

The funding calls for eight months of study to assess the issues women face and then implement programs and practices to support and recruit more women.

"When you are on a jobsite and there are hundreds of guys, but you are the only woman it can be overwhelming,” Langevin said. “This program will help level that playing field by providing women with the network and resources they need to be successful in these great paying careers.”

There are approximately 3,964 registered women apprentices in the province across 72 different trades, says the B.C. government.

Langevin anticipates that the study will include information on the need for mentoring. She told the story of a second-year apprentice who was getting discouraged and even considered quitting. But when she spoke with other women, she learned they went through a similar process but stuck it out and are now thriving in their careers.

“I don’t know exactly what it is about year two, but a lot of us experienced that. And now that woman is still in the trade, because she found the support she needed,” Langevin said. “That’s an example of what we need to do. We need to create a network of women who can talk to other women.”

“It’s great that the B.C. government is investing in mentorship for apprentices and women. And we’re ready to lead the way,” said 1st District Vice President William Daniels.