Working with unions like United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) Local 254 is integral to the success of the Office to Advance Women Apprentices. Since the earliest days the office and UA Local 254 and the Piping Industry Technical College (PITC) have worked together to ensure its current and future clients know of the many opportunities available to women in the piping trades in Manitoba.
Celebrating its 111th anniversary this year, UA Local 254 remains a backbone of the labour sector in Manitoba. With more than 1,300 members, it represents trades like plumbing, steamfitting, welding, refrigeration, and sprinkler fitting across the province. Union membership offers tremendous benefits including pension, safety, compensation, and representation.
“It’s reassuring to members to know that when needed, they have us at their back,” says Tim (Rocky) Furlong, Business Agent, UA Local 254.
Piping Industry Technical College
Through PITC, the union is able to meet the training needs of the industry by offering pre-apprenticeship and trade-specific training. The college has also demonstrated its commitment to creating a diverse workforce by partnering with Indigenous organizations like First Peoples Development to offer trades training opportunities to Indigenous trainees. Partnerships like the one with the Seven Oaks School Division has allowed the union to reach out to youth including young women. According to Steve Ducharme, Seven Oaks training director, working with the school division has helped to put the piping trades on the radar of young people who might not otherwise consider a career in trades.
“Getting young people into the trades early in their lives means they have a long-term, rewarding career and are able to contribute to an excellent pension plan,” he says.
Creating an Environment Where Family is Valued
UA Local 254 falls within the larger national family of UA Canada, which has over 50,000 members representing 11 distinct trades from gas technicians to plumbers and welders. In addition to their nation-wide training programs and union benefits, UA Canada also offers some unique benefit programs in support of families. According to Alanna Marklund, national manager for youth, diversity, and Indigenous relations, the National Parental Wellness Program is in place to support members during pregnancy and early childhood development years. The program provides financial assistance to members who are pregnant while working in the trades, and working in an environment that poses a risk to both the mother and unborn child. Additionally, the Maternity and Parental EI Assistance Benefit provides supplementary top-up to assist families financially while they are off work caring for their children during their first year of life.
“We must show that we support our members throughout their entire career, including their personal lives, or we risk losing the highly-skilled, well-trained professionals within our industry,” Alanna says.”Creating an environment in which family is valued, is the key to retention in our industry. This will shift construction culture to become more inclusive, and in turn, ensure that we will continue to have the most skilled workforce in the piping industry.”
You Can’t Be What You Can’t See
Alanna herself is a Red Seal welder with an Alberta B-Pressure ticket and believes her trade has created more opportunities than she could have imagined. She was the first woman to compete in the UA International Apprentice Competition competing with apprentices from Canada, the United States, and Australia. The daughter of an electrician, Alanna and her two sisters have all pursued careers in trades.
“You can’t be what you can’t see and so it is important that women are able to see themselves working in these trades,” says Alanna. She is certainly a role model for women considering a career in trades.
With people like Rocky, Steve, and Alanna working hard for their members to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Association presents some tremendous opportunities for women who are interested in pursuing rewarding careers in the piping trades.
Want to get in touch with the UA? Looking for other trades unions to connect with? The Office to Advance Women Apprentices helps connect tradeswomen with all sorts of resources to help continue growing your career. Get in touch to discuss your options and our partnerships.