Ontario adds $6.9 million to women’s job training program

By Lincoln DePradine

Minister Monte McNaughton

An Ontario program, which has been expanded with an additional $6.9 million government investment over three years, is a “pathway’’ to helping women find employment, including in the skills trade, according associate minister Charmaine Williams.

“I just can’t stress enough how important it is for us to take care of our women; see women healthy and working in Ontario. Because when women succeed, Ontario succeeds,’’ Williams said, while commenting on the Investing in Women’s Futures (IWF) program of the Progressive Conservative (PC) administration of Premier Doug Forde.

The government says that in the 2021-2022 period, the IWF program was conducted at 23 centres and helped more than 1,300 Ontario women to “secure employment, start their own businesses or pursue further training or education’’.

The IWF new funding injection, announced in Newmarket, would allow the program to be set at 10 more locations, including at centres in Toronto, Mississauga, Pickering, Brampton, Kingston and Newmarket.

Other IWF new program centres are in Midland, Killaloe, Kirkland Lake, Elliot Lake.

Investing in Women’s Futures, in the words of the provincial government officials, is a program that assists women to “develop the skills they need to gain financial security and independence’’.

IWF, they added, “provides a range of flexible services and employment readiness supports for women facing social and economic barriers, including those experiencing gender-based violence and social isolation. These services and supports help women to overcome any barriers, increase well-being, build skills and gain employment’’.

The “wrap-up supports’’ offered to women under the IWF include “soft skills’’ training such as resume writing, mental health and childcare assistance, explained Williams, MPP for Brampton Centre and the associate minister responsible women’s social and economic opportunity.

Associate Minister Charmaine Williams

“Our goal is to get women ready for employment. If that means that they are struggling with their mental health and they need some supports, that is what this program is going to be able to provide you. It’s meeting people where they are at,’’ she told reporters last Friday.

“These 10 new Investing in Women’s Futures program locations will support more women to become economically empowered and live safely with a greater sense of well-being,” said Williams.

Monte McNaughton, the labour minister, is confident that IWF would make a positive difference in women’s lives.

“This investment in the expansion of the Investing Women’s Futures program will help more women access the training and supports they need, start their own businesses, and find meaningful work so they can earn bigger paycheques while inspiring the next generation of girls,” said McNaughton, who also is minister of immigration, training and skills development.

Williams, encouraging female participation in IWF, said “it doesn’t matter who you are and what stage of life you’re in’’. As she put it, “if you have a desire to have employment and you need a pathway to that employment, Investing in Women’s Futures is going to help you on that pathway’’.

Williams said an IWF participant can train for a career in almost any field, including business administration and in the food sector.

However, she identified the skills trade and in the field of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – as sectors where women are “significantly under-represented’’.

“Women enter the skills trades and leave after four years. As much as 50 percent of women leaves the skills trades after four years. So, we know we need to make some changes in that,’’ Williams said.

“Women in the skills trades are needed. Because we are anticipating hundreds of thousands of people leaving the skills trades, due to retirement alone.’’

The skills trade “pays well’’ and offers “excellent benefits’’ and a “secured future’’, said Williams. “If you have an interest in the skills trades, we need you; we want you to get involved.’’

Women’s involvement in Ontario’s economy is “extremely impactful’’, Williams said.

“Women make up more than half of a family’s household income and, in some cases, are 100 percent of the household income,’’ she said. “So, ensuring that women have the resources and supports they need to reach the full potential in their economic empowerment and security, is good for Ontario’s economy overall.’’

LJI Reporter