Elsipogtog First Nation encouraging Indigenous women to enter the construction trades while working to ease housing shortage

Construction apprentices Devonya Levi, Diana Augustine and Olivia Gehue pose in front work equipment at the site of a new family home under construction at Elsipogtog First Nation.
Construction apprentices Devonya Levi, Diana Augustine and Olivia Gehue pose in front work equipment at the site of a new family home under construction at Elsipogtog First Nation.

ELSIPOGTOG FIRST NATION, N.B. – Elsipogtog First Nation has partnered with a local female-owned and managed construction firm to encourage Indigenous women to enter the construction trades.

“Our community has a housing shortage,” says Lynn Francis, Director of Economic Development for Elsipogtog First Nation. “As well, there’s huge demand for construction workers. As we’re always looking for more career opportunities for members of our community, we thought that training women for work in the construction trades would be a perfect fit.”

“The entire construction industry is currently experiencing a significant labour shortage during an exceptionally busy time,” says Donna Ferguson, President of SheBuilds located in Dieppe, whose mostly female team is working with – and providing on-the-job apprenticeships to – three young Indigenous women from Elsipogtog as they work to achieve their Red Seal certifications. “One way this shortage is going to be relieved is for more women to enter it. And Indigenous women should be given every chance to be part of the equation. They just need to have it on their radar, so to speak. Partnering with Elsipogtog is a start!”

“If the construction industry is going to expand its workforce, it must be more welcoming to women,” she says. “There’s a large pool of women who don’t even consider the construction trades. And for Indigenous women, that’s likely amplified. We’re aiming to change that.”

A Red Seal endorsement is a seal on a professional construction worker’s provincial or territorial trade certificate which shows that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to practise their trade across Canada. Students earn Red Seal endorsements by successfully completing a rigorous education process of classroom theory, on-the-job apprenticeships and exams.

“A Red Seal construction worker can have a great career ahead of them and leave a legacy of homes, commercial buildings and other structures that will stand for generations to come,” Ms. Ferguson says. “I’m pleased to work with three talented and determined young women from Elsipogtog – Olivia Gehue, Devonya Levi and Diana Augustine – who’ve proven that they’re dedicated and motivated for careers in construction. We’re proud to provide them with apprenticeship mentoring as they work toward earning their Red Seals through the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Training and Labour.”

This training opportunity has been made possible through the collaboration of Elsipogtog Economic Development’s partners, including McGraw Housing, Mic Mac Industries, SheBuilds and the Elsipogtog Housing Department. Elsipogtog is the largest First Nations community in the province, with a population of 3,500 – 2,700 of whom live on reserve. The community is growing fast and has a young age demographic.

“The more community members we have who are properly trained and licensed in the construction trades, the more we can involve them in helping their own community,” says Mark Augustine, Elsipogtog’s Senior Employment and Training Officer. “The three young women we’ve sponsored will have secure jobs in the construction trades, whether they work in the community or on projects outside of it. It’s in the best interest of everyone that we do everything we can to help them succeed.”

“Many construction companies want to take advantage of the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation’s Housing Internship for Indigenous Youth (HIIY),” Mr. Augustine says. “This is a great program that provides a wage subsidy to housing organizations and businesses to hire Indigenous youth for internship positions. As the construction workforce crisis grows, we know that companies will be looking for more options. We’re happy to help them – and we’re happy to help our Indigenous youth discover careers that they may have previously thought were not possible. In fact, everything is possible!”

“The construction industry is a male-dominated industry,” says Ms. Ferguson. “As a woman who runs my own construction company, I’ve seen how intimidating the industry can be to women. Everyone says they’re concerned about the labour shortage, but attitudes will need to change because women are an untapped resource. This is as simple as suspending our pre-conceived notions of what tradespeople look like – long enough to give women an opportunity to prove they belong and can thrive.”

Already, SheBuilds has constructed three new homes in Elsipogtog using the three female apprentices. “By ensuring that they are properly trained and mentored, we help them succeed,” Ms. Ferguson says. “This, in turn, makes them ambassadors for the trades among Indigenous People – especially women. That’s how we break down barriers and bring more women and Indigenous People into the construction industry. The demand for workers is significant and traditional roadblocks need to be removed. Elsipogtog should be commended for their forward-thinking determination in this regard.”

“Every generation gets more accepting of new things,” says Ms. Francis, who leads the team seeking to enhance the economic strength of the Elsipogtog First Nation. “We hope that, as society evolves, Elsipogtog will be able to contribute to the goal of expanding the number of women in the construction trades. In turn, they’ll be motivated to help their own community in our own construction projects, as well as elsewhere. It’s a win-win for all.”


Media contact:

Brian Cormier

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