RRC Polytech partners with Office to Advance Women Apprentices


As the school year comes to an end, some Red River College Polytechnic women in Skilled Trades are looking for support as they enter the workforce.

“I wanted to get a feel of what works for women going into the industry because that’s where I’m going to be in a few months,” said Cynthia Ratelle, a first-year student in the Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machinist Technician program.

The Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA) Manitoba is partnering with RRC Polytech’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre to give virtual presentations on how they can provide ongoing support to female students.

Ratelle said she plans to join the program.

The OAWA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting construction tradeswomen who are seeking employment or who are already employed. The program connects tradeswomen with employers and unions.

Shelby Livetsky sits by an engine for the Virtual Young Women’s Conference on March 15. This engine is used during the Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic program to teach students about engines and management systems./SHYLYTE BLOODWORTH

“I want to learn more about the organization and then pass that information along to my students to help them, so they have a better leg up in the industry than I did,” said Shelby Livetsky, RRC Polytech educational assistant for the Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic program.

Livetsky said when she first showed interest in trades, some people discouraged her.

“People would say to me ‘there’s no way you’re going to do this, right?'” Livetsky said. “I think they just thought because I was female and small that it wasn’t my job.”

Livetsky said growing up around machines and helping her dad in his workshop was what first motivated her to join trades.

Her second motivation was watching tradeswomen work.

“I remember looking up and seeing this woman operating this massive machine,” Livetsky said. “I looked at that and went, ‘wow, that is so cool. Like, I want to do something like that one day.'”

Livetsky enrolled in the Apprenticeship Manitoba program. She said she started her technical training at RRC Polytech and completed her Red Seal Certificate in 2020.

“I was the only woman in that program in 2017, but through the years, I saw the numbers increasing,” Livetsky said.

Katrinna Heppner is a first-year student in the CNC Machinist Technician program. She said she heard about OAWA but didn’t know about the presentations.

“I feel everybody should be able to make their own decisions [to choose their career path],” said Heppner, “But I would ideally like there to be a little bit more female representation in trades.”

The presentations are being rescheduled due to COVID-19.