When Derric'Ka Talbot first heard about St. Clair College's pre-apprentice program through Women's Enterprise Skills Training (WEST), she didn't believe such a thing existed.
"Free schooling?" she thought.
But that's exactly what's being offered through WEST's CNC/Industrial Mechanic Millwright Pre-apprenticeship program. It is the program's sixth intake at St. Clair College, with 130 women now having gone through since 2014.
The province funds the program, which means the students do not have to pay tuition. The students are in class for 17 weeks, followed by a 12-week work placement.
"I almost didn't believe it when I first heard about it," Talbot said. "I was actually in a job that was dead-ended for me. This is something that is so vast. You could go into so many different things and continuously learn throughout your career.
"I just couldn't say no to the opportunity."
The program is designed to facilitate the entry of women into the millwright/machining trade, but it can also lead to careers in the tool and mold industry, as well as welding and electrical apprenticeships.
Lyn Caine, program lead for WEST's Women in Skilled Trades Program, said the students have been carefully selected to determine their level of commitment and ability to come to class without any interruption.
"This program provides them with cross-training, which enables them to have a choice as to what direction they want to go, based on their passion, based on what they actually like doing in the program. From that point they make a decision as to where they're going."
Caine said women are definitely needed in the skilled trades "and we do everything we can to make sure that happens."
More information on the program can be found here: https://www.westofwindsor.com/women-in-skilled-trades/