Twenty-one-year-old Mila Puharich

Twenty-one-year-old Mila Puharich

Camosun program helps new generation of tradeswomen

Of the 14 students in last year’s program, six have moved on to other trades programs.

At 21-years-old and 130 pounds, Mila Puharich knows she faces a few hurdles working as a steel fitter. “There are challenges, but they are more about showing you’re confident enough,” she said. “You have to be able to prove you’re able to do the job (but) you have to do that in every job, no matter what gender you are.”

Since entering Camosun College’s Women in Trades Exploration program last year and completing her Level C welding training in March, Puharich heard a range of typical concerns from her female friends: “Isn’t it a man’s trade? How are you going to survive? Aren’t they going to push you around?”

She’s now an apprentice, and the only woman, in large scale repair at Victoria Shipyards.

Times are changing and there are more opportunities for women because of programs such as Women in Trades, which starts its next set of classes Oct. 3 at Camosun Interurban.

But for Puharich, a career in trades is following in her family’s footsteps.

“I don’t think I’m trades-minded, I just think we’re hands on people,” Puharich added.

Her grandfather was a welder, her father was an aircraft maintenance engineer, her sister is a carpenter and her mother was a former small engine mechanic – who also built the family home.

“It’s a hard go for women in industry, in any non-traditional occupation. I’ve found that myself,” said Puharich’s mom, Val Aloian. “It was hard to get anywhere in those days, and now there’s a lot more support.”

The 62-year-old, also a former professor of criminology, said her daughters’ interest in the trades was most likely to do with the availability of tools and workspaces around their household.

“I guess it’s just an environment with lots of tools and lots of opportunity to use the tools,” Aloian said. “Even if you can’t do it well, you can still produce something. That was the environment the kids grew up in.”

Of the 14 students in last year’s program, six have moved on to other trades programs. The exploration program, aimed at helping unemployed or underemployed women gain skills to become tradespeople, is offered through the Women in Trades Training Initiative and sponsored through the Industry Training Authority and the Canada-B.C Labour Market Agreement. Since its inception in 2008, 1,021 women have benefited from the provincial training initiative.

“A lot of females go into automotive service tech,” said Karen McNeill, trades training development co-ordinator at Camosun. “They’ve tinkered with gears with their dad and all of a sudden they’re thinking they’d like to move into that field. It works that way with everyone in the trades.”

The $5,200 tuition for Women in Trades is free to students who haven’t completed a post-secondary education and aren’t eligible for employment insurance. The course includes: books, supplies and tools for the trades; two days of instruction in each of 10 trades; bus passes; forklift training; basic first aid; fall protection; upgrading basic math and English, as well as worksite tours.

This year’s course runs Oct. 3 – Dec. 16.

For more information, contact McNeill at mcneillk@camosun.bc.ca.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Did you know?

• Women make up more than half of the workforce in B.C., yet only 6.7 per cent of people working in trades, transport, equipment and operations are women.

Employment by industry in Canada

(in thousands) 2010, Statistics Canada:

• Construction

Men: 1,087.6, Women: 129.6

• Manufacturing

Men: 1,262.4, Women: 482.0

• Utilities

Men: 113.4, Women: 34.9

• Educational services

Men: 403.8, Women: 814.1

• Health care and social assistance

Men: 363.1, Women: 1,667.7

• Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing

Men: 475.7, Women: 620.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ronald Schinners, owner of The Cabbie in the #YYJ, opened his taxi service in the West Shore last month. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
‘One man show,’ The Cabbie in the #YYJ cultivates 45,000 followers on Instagram

New taxi company brings unusual spunk to the West Shore

West Shore RCMP say police presence in Esquimalt Lagoon Saturday was not related to the shooting death of a 37-year-old man in Metchosin Friday night. (Black Press Media File)
West Shore RCMP says presence in Esquimalt Lagoon Saturday was not related to death in Metchosin

Police continue to investigate what they describe as ‘targeted incident’ in death of a 37-year-old man

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past warned of Öffnungsdiskusionorgien (translated as an orgy of discussions about openings), one of one of the 1,200 words added to the German lexicon as reported by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
German lexicon grows by 1,200 words, many inspired by COVID-19 pandemic

Öffnungsdiskusionorgie (orgy of discussions about openings) among new entries

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read