March 8, 2021
By Blake Marchand
This past December Jennifer Green was honoured with Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Award for the Skilled Trades category by WXN (Women’s Executive Network).
“It is truly an honour to be recognized by WXN and to be among this group of amazing women,” said Green of earning the distinction. “Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many great mentors and team members – to them, I say thank you for always inspiring me. I am absolutely thrilled.”
Green is an industrial mechanic millwright by trade and works with Skills Ontario as Director of Competitions and Young Women’s Initiatives. She is also an Apprenticeship Youth Advisor for the Ministry of Labour.
“Jennifer exemplifies the qualities of a fantastic leader. She is influential, decisive, and an individual of great integrity,” commented Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario. “She is a creative thinker and excels in helping us meet our objectives and have a real impact. We are very proud!”
For Green, it was encouraging to see the Skilled Trades category be included in WXN’s Top 100 Award, often these types of awards focus on the C-Suite level.
Green added that it’s a good signifier of the work that has been done and continues to be done across the country in regard to promoting the skilled trades. “Introducing the Skilled Trades category and truly seeing that women in this category are making a huge difference in their community, in their province, in their country,” is an encouraging sign, she said, noting that a number of different industry awards have begun introducing a skilled trades category. Additionally, Green was honoured in 2013 when the Guelph YW/YMCA introduced a skilled trades category to their Women of Distinction Award. She was also recognized by Conestoga College as an Alumni of Distinction, in their skilled trades category. The point Green makes is that having the skilled trades alongside other professions helps to contextualize the skilled trades as a rewarding a lucrative career path.
Green has been an advocate for skilled trades and women in skilled trades since she was a high school student, the recognition from her peers in the industry was uplifting, “I feel like I’m doing a good job and I feel like I am making a difference,” she said, “but to have multiple people in my network agree and feel this award is appropriate, it’s really humbling.”
“It’s exciting to be a part of a network of amazing women who are doing astonishing things in all different categories and sectors,” she added.
Green first got involved with Skills Ontario by becoming a speaker and mentor at their Young Women’s Events, and again by participating in the provincial Skills Ontario Competition while in the third year of her apprenticeship. One of her instructors at Conestoga recommended her to represent the college in the competition and she ended up winning gold in the provincial competition and silver in the national competition as the second women to compete in that contest. Something that had a major impact on her confidence early on as well as her career moving forward.
“It changed my career and earned me instant respect,” she said. Green was hesitant at first because she thought if she didn’t do well it would play into the stereotype of women not belonging in the trades. “I said ‘what if I come in last?’ And they said, ‘what if you come in first?’”
With that in mind and with the confidence of her instructor, Green put in the work to make sure she would be prepared.
“I don’t want to say I no longer had to prove myself – don’t get me wrong, women still have to prove themselves constantly in the trades – but the people that I worked with, the people that knew me, I felt took me more seriously all of the sudden,” she said, which really speaks to the importance and the impact celebrating diversity can have on breaking down stigma/stereotypes.
Her advice to young women pursuing a career in the skilled trades was this: “Find a mentor, find a support network. When I started, they didn’t exist.”
“Find your group, find the support system because there’s no one to support you better than someone who has been there and can provide you with real, tangible advice.”
“Today – I’m impressed by the amount of support groups and organizations that are out there for women in skilled trades is just so refreshing. Whether it is to a sector, such as Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE), Women in Mining Canada, Women in Nuclear; or specific to an individual trade, such as Women of Powerline Technicians. Those are all support groups, each of them has a network that supports by offering ideas and opportunities.” Green noted that Women of Powerline Technicians recently launched a bursary to support women entering the trade. The federal government has an apprenticeship completion grant specifically for women. Along with industry organizations, government, colleges, individual companies are also making an effort to provide support groups and mentorship programs for their female employees. Green said it’s important for companies to publicize their diversity programs so that people know the resource is there. “Being more public about your diversity programs is going to be able to attract more people to you, knowing you have their back, knowing that you have a system in place already.”
Ultimately, she said, “To see that all the different facets of education, industry, and government working towards the same goals, it shows progress and change in the right direction.”
Green’s experience with Skills Ontario came full circle when she joined the organization as an employee in 2018. Initially she was a keynote speaker and mentor for many years for Skills Ontario as part of their Young Women’s Initiatives starting at the age of 17. At the time she was the first female to sign on as an Ontario Youth Apprenticeship (OYAP) student for her school board, “I stuck out like a sore thumb.” She worked with Skills Ontario as a volunteer for 14 years mentoring, speaking at events, and working with their camp programs; she also co-created the Skills Ontario alumni association as Chair and helped create the national alumni committee with Skills/Compétences Canada, as Chair and Ontario Lead.
Taking on that role was a significant step, not only in that she had been involved with the organization in nearly every other capacity, but it allowed her to take something she was passionate about to the next level.
Now in her current role as Director of Competitions and Young Women’s Initiatives, she said, “One of the things I really love about my job is it literally is my trade, and passion for advocacy smashed into one. I’ve been advocating and promoting my entire career. It’s combined everything into one, and everything I had done with passion as a volunteer, is now my job.”
An important aspect of her role is communication and relationship building, essentially Green said she wants to be a resource for the volunteers, colleges, and industry stakeholders Skills Ontario works with.
“I want to make sure I can get them what they need so processes can be easier for them. Whether it is skilled trades in general or in my role at work, one of the biggest things I pride myself on is communication and the relationships that I build within that network.”
“Having a team and people you can rely on is what really drives something to be positive and successful when it comes to fruition. Your team is your foundation, and we all work together, to be there for each other.”
For Green, leadership is a collaborative effort, making sure the team is supported. “I’m here to help you get to where you want to go, not only in your career but to complete your job and your tasks successfully.”
Green noted that her longevity with the organizations adds that much more to her ability to help the younger generations. “I’ve been there, I know what the programming and the competition did for me as a student. Having that experience and knowing what it can do, for me is a drive in my role as an employee now, to really focus harder and even more on what I can provide and give back.”
“I know how great it was then, so the goal is to continue to make it even better today.”