If a year ago, someone had painted a future picture of Kourtney Belisle’s life, there was no way it would have included lathes, drills and welding torches.
The 29-year-old owned her own fitness studio in Northern Ontario and was quite happy being her own boss.
But then COVID happened, and Belisle was forced to pivot.
“The industry was no longer feasible for me as a single parent, so I decided I was going to look for a new opportunity.”
Belisle found an online advertisement for the Women in Skilled Trades program through the Windsor-based group Women’s Enterprise Skills Training (WEST). Funded by the provincial government, with support from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the program includes free tuition, pre-apprenticeship training at St. Clair College’s Windsor campus and paid work placements.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds like a really good opportunity,’” Belisle said. “In the trades, you can go to school and work at the same time, earn a living. It’s kind of nice to know that you can make money while you’re educating yourself.”
Participants complete the Level 1 Industrial Mechanic Millwright Apprenticeship in-school curriculum and 70 hours of hands-on CNC Practical Skills with General Machinist concepts and an eight-week industry work placement. They are also exposed to eight different trades. “Some of them might find a passion in one of those eight trades, and then we work with them to find a job placement,” said Rose Anguiano Hurst, WEST’s Executive Director.
College President Patti France said the program, in its’ seventh year, is designed to meet labour market shortages in the skilled trades while empowering women to take control of their future careers. “This program allows women to explore a career path they may have never considered,” France said.
For Belisle, the program means economic security for her and her daughter.
“I have a four-year-old and I want to be a role model to her and show her that hard times makes strong people and you can do anything,” Belisle said.
For more information on the Women In Skilled Trades program, please go to https://www.stclaircollege.ca/programs/women-trades.