21 Jun, 2019
Shylah Nokusis has a number of trades under her belt, so to speak. She’s a Red Seal carpenter, a second-year scaffolder and a second-year ironworker apprentice. And if that wasn’t enough, Shylah recently assumed the role of Project Coordinator for the newly-launched Office to Advance Women Apprentices in Saskatchewan.
“I had to decide to continue on with my scaffolding apprenticeship, or take this job opportunity with OAWA,” said Shylah. “I knew I could do something to help my community and help other women. What OAWA stands for, how many women it’s going to help in the trades – it will be so rewarding.”
The OAWA is a project funded by the Government of Canada’s Union Training and Innovation fund and Canada’s Building Trades Unions. Based off the successful model used in Newfoundland, where women represent approximately 13 per cent of the workforce, compared to four per cent in the rest of the country, the OAWA will identify barriers, track and measure success and work directly with tradeswomen across the province to increase their chance for success.
But this isn’t the first time Shylah has focused on helping those around her to aspire for a better life. Originally from Peepeekisis First Nation, about 40 minutes from Regina, Shylah took a break from not only her apprenticeship, but her own contracting business that she started up several years ago. She bid on jobs that came on up on reserves around her when work with the union was slow.
“I built a duplex on my own reserve, and was the only female contractor there. There was a lot of doubt, that I wouldn’t be able to finish. But I did, on time and mine was one of the best built out of the several being built at the time,” said Shylah.
Shylah went on to hire youth from her community and communities nearby to give others the opportunities that she had in the trades, and start them in their own apprenticeships. “I had a lot of questions from people that were surprised to see me doing this work. What I would tell them is, that you have the same opportunity that I do – but I think they just hadn’t seen themselves doing that.”
Shylah will be working for the OAWA office in Saskatchewan, while two other offices are opening in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Through the three offices, at least 750 female apprentices are expected to be served including Indigenous apprentices, to increase the number of women in skilled trades. In coordination with provincial partners, including Manitoba’s Building Trades Unions, Saskatchewan’s Building Trades Unions and the Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers,the OAWA will create ongoing support services for women seeking or already employed in the skilled construction trades. This includes providing career services, employment supports and networking opportunities for tradeswomen. The program will engage and build partnerships with over 75 key stakeholders including employers, unions and training providers to improve participation and success of women in the trades. The program will also develop and maintain a registry database to track services provided and apprenticeship numbers of tradeswomen.
“All the women that I am going to be able to help with this program, inspires me. I know as a tradeswoman, I wanted to quit so many times. I didn’t have a mentor, someone I could talk to – so those small things that OAWA will offer will make such a difference. It will open up so many doors. I hope that I will also be a role model within my community to encourage more women and youth to enter the trades,” said Shylah.
To learn more about OAWA Saskatchewan or get in touch with the office, you can call or email: