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New Futures as 10 Women Begin Skilled Trades Training and Careers as Part of Pioneering Partnership with New Boots, J.D. Irving, Limited and the Province of New Brunswick


Today 10 women of diverse ages and backgrounds begin new careers in skilled trades.  The Skilled Trades Exploration Program for Women (STEPW) initiative is the first effort in a partnership between J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI), New Boots and the Government of New Brunswick.  

The pilot project is focused on upskilling to better paying jobs that are being guaranteed by JDI on successful completion of an exploration and essential skills training program at the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) Saint John campus.  All have been interviewed for full time employment with JDI as part of selection process.

This builds on the successful program pioneered by JDI at the Halifax Shipyard in partnership with Women Unlimited. 

Today begins an 11-week program by the Apprentice and Occupation Certification (AOC) branch with the provincial department of Post-Secondary Education and Labour (PETL). NBCC will offer skilled trades exploration training, AOC will offer safety training, while PETL’s Workforce Essential Skills Program (WES) has met with each of the women to customize essential skills training which is focused on the 5 of the 9 essential workforce skills:     

1. Numeracy 

2. Oral communication

3. Thinking skills

4. Continuous learning

5. Working with others 

On completion of the program the women will begin as paid apprentices at JDI in their chosen industrial trades as they complete the required blocks to become a journey person.  Participating JDI companies include NB Southern Railway, Universal Truck and Trailer (UTT), Custom Fabricators and Machinists (CFM), Woodlands, and Irving Equipment.  In some cases, after a block is completed, the apprentice has to look for new work.  JDI will provide continuous work placements through the blocks and a guaranteed job on successful completion. 




“The Government of New Brunswick is a proud supporter of Skilled Trades Exploration Program for Women (STEPW).   I applaud JDI for thinking outside the box on ways to address their labour needs and providing training, mentoring and career opportunities to women in the skilled trades.”

Trevor Holder

Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Labour

Province of New Brunswick

“For New Boots, the STEPW pilot project is a great avenue to help our industries with their workforce issue when it comes to recruiting qualified skilled trades workers. Women are an immense talent pool that haven’t been widely exposed to the wonderful career opportunities in skilled trades and STEPW is their chance to get some experience and training to start a new career with a great company like J.D. Irving here in New Brunswick! With our partners, J.D. Irving, Limited and the Government of New Brunswick, we are excited to start a new initiative that will help women of New Brunswick earn as they learn through apprenticeship!”

Hélène Savoie-Louis

Director of New Boots 

MAP Strategic Workforce Services Inc. (MAPSWS)

"Women have an amazing opportunity to be part of the solution to New Brunswick's labour shortage. With valued partners like J.D. Irving Limited and New Boots, and initiatives like STEPW, we can promote the skilled trades as a great career option for women."

Catherine Black

Dean, Trades and Hospitality

Regional Director, Moncton

New Brunswick Community College

“It is a great achievement to see and promote women to be participants of our skilled trades opportunities.  Skilled tradespeople play a huge role in our economy and I am so pleased that we have ten women that are ready to move forward and obtain job opportunities in their various fields with J.D. Irving, Limited”.

Shirley McAlary

Deputy Mayor

City of Saint John

“At JDI, upskilling New Brunswickers who want to pursue better career opportunities is a priority.  Helene and the team at New Boots have been passionate champions for women in skilled trades.  We share and appreciate the focus the Province and New Boots have placed on growing new futures for these women and are committed to supporting future efforts.  With 1190 NBCC grads on our team, we know the Saint John community college will deliver first class training.  On behalf of the JDI team, we wish the 10 pioneers of this program every success and look forward to welcoming them as full-time employees when they graduate!”

Jim Irving


J.D. Irving, Limited


“I had looked at taking a trade a few years ago but decided to go in a different direction. I have always wished I had of gone down that road. I am looking for a career that allows me to support my daughter. I have never been afraid of hard work and working in a field that tends to be more male dominated. I want a career that I am contributing to something and can be proud to come home to my daughter because I’m setting a good example for her. Working in a trade is where that future is. An opportunity like this would allow me to make a needed change in my life that isn’t as accessible as a single mother. “

Jean MacDonald, Retail - Saint John

“What interests me is that I prefer to be immersed in my career, in a hands-on environment and the physicality of working in a trade stimulates my interests and maintains my attention.”

Maggie Gray, Grounds Labourer - Norton

“I have always had an interest in skilled trades. I grew up in a traditional home and there were many things that women couldn't do. I had let that hold be back throughout the years.  I have always enjoyed working with my hands, hard work and problem solving. Now, in my thirties, I have 14 years of retail experience and I'm looking for a new challenge and career path. Preferably something that's not so traditional.”

Kayla DeBow, Store Manager - Grand Bay

“Since a young age I've always found myself learning through hands on experiences. From helping my Dad out with our car maintenance, to our houses plumbing issues and just general upkeep and building projects around the house. I've always enjoyed learning through hands on experiences and over the past few years found myself in search of a career where I can use my mechanical skills. I also love that skilled trades give you lots of possibilities of growth and satisfaction in the job you're completing.”

Danielle McGavney, Car Dealership - Parts Department, Saint John

“I never imagined myself working a job at a desk as I’ve always been a hands-on learner and like to be moving in fast-paced environments. Over the years I have developed an interest in mechanics specifically but in general I am interested in how things such as machinery works and fixing them, but I have not been able to land on a specific trade I would like and do well in. Which is why I think this would be a great opportunity to learn about the different trades and actually get to see the jobs being completed firsthand.”

Monica Bell, Server - Saint John

“I’m interested in a fulfilling career that can provide rewarding experiences that will allow me to tap into my passion and love to work with my hands and collaborate on projects to see them succeed.”

Clarissa Arseneault, School Intervention Worker - St. Stephen

“I have been around trades my whole life but I had really good marks in school my parents wanted the doctor or lawyer route so I did it then I quickly realized I needed to go back to trades I have built my trucks from the ground up with lifts and all and I enjoy the male dominated work force because I find I do better because I know people would constantly judge me for being a girl. I actually got accepted to diesel mechanics when I left high school, but I took the law route and regret it. I've been trying to become a lineman with NB Power through that course but it's a super hard course to get into so I would like to really push for the mechanics route as it has always interested me!”

Hillari Vanwart, Daycare worker - Oromocto

“When talking about the Skills Trades field, I have always seen, as a woman, the unlimited opportunities for me to grow and succeed.”

Sabrina Roche, Hair Salon Owner - St. Martin’s

“I have always been interested in a job that requires a hands-on approach. I also learn better when theory is combined with real life work experience. I feel skilled trades are constantly challenging your mind, with room for improvement.”

Heather Landry, Contract Emergency Response Technician - Hampton

“I have been thinking about getting into a skilled trade for a while now at least 2 years! I have been looking to do a career change. I always love working hands on, plus learning new things on a daily. I'm looking to create a brighter future for myself!”

Chelsea Savoie, Aesthetician - Saint John