I’ve been running a trades training school for 17 years and when I show up to teach a group of tradesmen, there are still students who assume I’m the receptionist. I want to help women get out of their box to choose bigger, better things. As women, we can do 10 things at the same time and do them well. Imagine if 50% of the skilled trades workforce were women, how much more efficient that workforce would be. It would be awesome to get some industry support to encourage more women to be more powerful in trades.
When I first started to apply to jobs in Canada 20-years ago, my electrical engineering certificate from India had no value. I had to start from scratch and complete seven challenge examinations to get my Professional Engineering certificate in BC. I also noticed there was no college or organization helping new Canadians like me navigate their Red Seal journey. I was someone who spoke English comfortably, but there were many trades people from villages who didn’t speak English and they didn’t have anyone to help. How were they ever going to advance their career? They would be stuck in meaningless roles for the rest of their lives.
I started to teach a handful of students in my parents’ garage to help them prepare to write the Red Seal exam. That’s where my company was born. Space was so limited and noisy, but students still chose to come and learn from me because I was someone willing to help them.
The Red Seal exam is challenging because it tests knowledge accumulated across all four years of an apprenticeship. When international or Canadians students pass their fourth-year level, it’s not considered a completion in British Columbia until they pass the IP exam and obtain their Red Seal ticket. We help students prepare for the Red Seal exam so they can qualify for more jobs.
I’m proud that I’m a female immigrant of colour leading an SkilledTradesBC-regulated educational institution. I can be a mentor for women in the trades.
My advice to tradeswomen is to never give up. Speak up for yourself to advocate for the change you want. And try and try again. Invest in your education regardless of what your end goal is, because education makes you think beyond the little box that we create as humans for ourselves, and it forces you into being a leader.
I have never seen so much opportunity before. The sky’s the limit.
Supneet Chawla is a Canadian electrical engineer and approved electrical code instructor. She is the Founder and CEO of ACE Trades and Technical Institute and ACE Community College. ACE has instructors across Canada to help international and local students achieve their Red Seal certificates in 25 different trades. BCIB works with Supneet and ACE to help candidates wanting to upskill.