Is your business ignoring half the workforce?

Older Woman Worker

It’s been proven in study after study – the more diverse your team, the more innovative and productive it will be.

Bringing diversity into your workplace isn’t an exercise in social justice, but of fiscal necessity. The first waves of baby boomers have already hit retirement age. Employers need to prepare by proactively recruiting from new or different pools of talent.

Hydro Ottawa is one employer that is taking action. Almost 44 per cent of its trades and technical workforce is forecast to retire in the next 10 years.

The utility has responded with a diversity plan to create opportunity and recruit and retain employees from groups that have traditionally not been broadly represented in its workforce. One of these is women.

Half the workforce, hardly used

Women make up only 25 per cent of the workforce in Canada’s electricity industry, according to the last Power in Motion report from Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC). This compares to 48 per cent in all other industries. In terms of trade occupations, women represent only five per cent, or less, of the electricity workforce.

Hydro Ottawa has found innovative ways to approach the challenge by expanding its existing community outreach programs and partnering with other organizations.

It begins at the elementary school level. Hydro Ottawa already has an education program with local schools to teach children about electrical safety and conservation. This same program now includes a career component to introduce children to opportunities in the electricity sector, specifically in trades and technical roles.

Hydro Ottawa is now partnering with EHRC and Algonquin College to develop a sustainable mentorship program that connects women in utilities with graduates of the college’s Women into Electrical Engineering Technology program. Hydro Ottawa also provides opportunities for women in various trades, technical and engineering disciplines with apprenticeships and internships. In fact, more than half of Hydro Ottawa’s engineering interns are women who graduated with an engineering degree and are working towards attaining their Professional Engineer designation.

Small efforts add up over time

Samantha Evelyn is a recently hired engineering intern whose career goal is to obtain her professional engineer designation.

“Hydro Ottawa has a great engineering training and development program and offers a lot of support,” she said. “I work under the guidance of professional engineers who’ve been willing to show me the ropes and teach me the ways of the workplace.”

Lyne Parent-Garvey, Hydro Ottawa’s Chief Human Resources Officer, is passionate about supporting more opportunities for women in the trades, technical or engineering fields. In her opinion, just about any employer can integrate diversity into how they operate their business and engage employees.

“Organizations of all sizes have an opportunity to make changes that will have an impact,” she said. “Partner with other organizations and industry groups like Hydro Ottawa does. See how you can modify your existing human resources programs. It’s steady, incremental changes over time that ultimately make a big difference.”

Source: Ottowa Business Journal



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