ARDN spoke with JudyLynn Archer, president and CEO of Women Building Futures, about the role of women in workforce development – the focus of her upcoming keynote presentation at the Creating Rural Connections 2014: Workforce Development event on May 9 in Grande Prairie. Take a read!
ARDN: You say that you believe in solving social issues in ways that benefit business. What does that look like?
JudyLynn: Women Building Futures (WBF) is mandated to help women achieve economic prosperity. We achieve that mandate by recruiting and training women for jobs in construction – jobs that are in high demand and that tend to pay well above what many women earn. Women who participate, graduate, and get hired see an average income increase of 127 percent. It’s a huge stride forward in a woman’s quest for economic prosperity and at the same time, we are helping employers tap into Alberta’s largest untapped source of workers. Businesses need well trained employees with good attitudes in order to be competitive and deliver their projects on time – women can be, and are, those employees. In the bigger picture, it is proven that one of the best ways to improve the local economy is to help local women prosper and we see this every day. It’s a great example of solving social issues by creating opportunities for business.
ARDN: Approximately how many women do you work with a year?
JudyLynn: Historically, the number of women we train each year is around 140 but last year WBF was contacted by over 3,000 women looking for a way to get into the trades. So as we speak, we’re in the process of changing our business model with the goal of increasing the number of women coming into Alberta’s construction trades by 300 percent over the next five years.
ARDN: Why are women important to workforce development in Alberta?
JudyLynn: Women are Alberta’s largest untapped local talent pool. Our target client age range is from 24 to 44; in Alberta there are over 660,000 women in this age range and 96,000 of those are Aboriginal women. Our conservative goal is to recruit one percent of this target or 6,600 women. On top of that, given the average annual income of a single woman in Alberta working full time ($32,000), we now have 6,600 women who could potentially change their annual income from $32,000 to $72,000.
ARDN: What do you hope the people who attend your Keynote at the Workforce Development event will learn or gain?
JudyLynn: Attendees will learn about some best practices specific to attracting and retaining women in construction and gain awareness of the opportunity being presented.