A $1-million-donation from the Gwyn Morgan and Patricia Trottier Foundation — the largest single private gift in Camosun College’s history — will go toward supporting women in trades.
“We hope it is going to be life-altering,” Trottier said.
The donation, which brings the total amount raised by Camosun’s TRADEmark of Excellence Campaign to $7.5 million, is going to a new initiative, the Camosun Empowering Women in Trades Program. It will support women seeking to complete Red Seal apprenticeships in trades such as welding, sheet metal, mechanical, and construction.
The money will help women overcome financial challenges, including transportation, child care, living expenses and the cost of protective clothing and tools.
“Women who aspire to a career in the skilled trades often face financial and personal challenges which can prevent them from achieving their goal,” Trottier said.
Morgan said a Red Seal certification is a gender-equal opportunity for a rewarding career that can boost the lives of women and those who depend upon them.
Details of the program, which is expected to be launched in September, are still being worked out. Applications will be open in the summer, with each woman to take part in a personal-needs assessment.
In 2015-2016, nine per cent of Camosun’s trades students were women, up from five per cent in 2009-2010.
Camosun also offers a Women in Trades program backed by a federal-B.C. job fund agreement.
The new program is bolstered by funds from other donors to help women in trades. Bursaries will be available.
When combined, the programs are “like rocket fuel for women in trades,” TRADEmark campaign director Angus Matthews said Wednesday.
Camosun president Sherri Bell said the donation “will be transformative at every level.”
Morgan and Trottier, who live in Greater Victoria, grew up in Carstairs, Alta., with trades playing roles in their lives.
Trottier, who worked as an investor relations specialist, had dreams of being a jockey or race car driver, but was discouraged because they were not considered appropriate careers for women.
She mounted a successful campaign in high school to ensure that girls were allowed to study shop.
Trottier said her father was the only electrician in the area.
“He never, ever said ‘No’ to anybody. It didn’t matter who called, or when — Sunday at dinner or the middle of the night and their furnace had gone out,” she said. “So we really got a respect for how important the trades are to everyday life.”
Morgan built EnCana Corp. into a leading Canadian energy company.
He was raised on a farm where his father, a mechanic, taught him to weld, and he relied on a bursary to pay tuition for his second year of engineering studies at university.
At Camosun on Wednesday, women learning trades shared their passion for the work and excitement about their futures.
Sam Clark, 27, tried out carpentry in a trades exploratory program and “was hooked from Day 1.”
“I really want to build homes. I want them to be comfortable. I want them to bring families together.”
Ceanne Askew, 22, was drawn to sheet-metal fabrication and welding because she enjoys working with her hands.
Training hours fly by when a project is assigned. She loves “trying to figure out how you are going to make it, putting it into action, and have a final product that is totally useful.”
Challenges also drive electrical student Desiree Wood, 26, who said, “I like math, I like figuring things out, and being technical.”
Jayna Wiewiorowski, Camosun’s training co-ordinator for trades development and special projects, sees first-hand the barriers facing students. This could be something as basic as transportation when a trainee is expected to move to different sites for work.