By Jéhanara Sage et Léa Gosselin,
Guidance counsellor and Employment counsellor at YWCA Montreal

YWCA Montreal has been offering employability services to the women of Montreal for 146 years. Employability services were at the heart of the mission that the YWCA set for itself at the time, and they still play a central role today Naturally, they have evolved year after year to adapt to the needs of women in an ever-changing labour market.

Major change in the job market: The pandemic

The pandemic really shook up the market at a time when the economy was at full employment, and employment conditions for women dropped to levels they were at thirty years ago. This situation is due to a variety of factors, including job losses in the hotel, restaurant and non-essential services sectors, as well as the need to look after children, who are often automatically the mother’s responsibility. Can you believe? 68% of jobs lost during the crisis were held by women.

The impacts of this crisis continue to be felt today by our clientele in the different employability programs we provide. In fact, since there is currently no shortage of employment, we receive increasingly more requests from women who have little formal education, who are unemployed, or are out of the job market following a pregnancy or because they recently immigrated to Canada, for example. Women who reach out to us needing support often limit themselves in their job search because they’re worried about not having what is needed in order to work.

Expertise for the benefit of all Montreal women

This is where the expertise of our team of employment and guidance counsellors, like us, makes all the difference in the world for these women. We know the Montreal job market, its ins and outs, and above all, how to play your cards right, so we help our participants develop personal skills—so-called soft skills—and teach them how to use technological tools. The objective of our programs is to rebuild a woman’s confidence so that she is no longer scared to take action.

Let’s look at the example of Danielle*, who participated in the OSE program (Orientation and Services for Employment) in 2020. As it did for many women, March 2020 turned her life and her family’s life upside down. As the head of a team and a seamstress in the field of television and theatre, Danielle had to lay off all her employees before she herself was let go by her superiors during the lockdown.

She confided to us that in all honesty, this profession no longer interested her as much as it once had and she was thinking of a career change. However, as a 48-year-old mother of two, she didn’t think this was the best time This forced leave from work therefore allowed her to reflect on what she wanted to do for the remainder of her active years in the labour market, yet she was finding it difficult to figure out where to start. During one of her eldest’s online classes and while her youngest was having an afternoon nap, Danielle contacted YWCA Montreal for help. After a few one-on-one meetings with Jéhanara, Danielle’s vision of what she wanted became clearer, and above all else, she realized how she could benefit from her past experience to help her in her future endeavours.

Today, Danielle works as a welder, a job that lets her use her finesse and her ability to do precision work, all while being much better paid and with consistent work hours. She would never have dared to work in a male-dominated field before her meetings with YWCA’s team! Jamais elle n’aurait osé se lancer dans ce domaine majoritairement masculin avant ses rencontres avec le Y des femmes!

The Plan for the Future, remaining relevant for women… for years to come!

We are totally thrilled by all the potential that the Plan for the Future holds for the future of women who will go through YWCA Montreal on their journey in search of employment. In fact, we will benefit from much bigger spaces, better adapted to the reality of the current labour market, and we will be able to welcome even more participants to each of our programs. In addition, we will focus our efforts on helping our participants obtain stable and better paid positions in sectors currently under development, such as sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as in occupations held primarily by men and that are lacking in qualified labour. The latter generally offer greater opportunities for advancement and because of this, are more likely to be long-term careers.

*fictive name