After already spending years in the architecture industry, Latifat Afolabi-Ogunsesan isn’t afraid to learn more about the field she’s already so familiar with.
Born in Nigeria, Afolabi-Ogunsesan (pictured in banner image above, bottom right) has a wealth of experience that she brings to the EmpowHER program. A certified architect with a Master’s degree, she has over 15 years in the architecture and project management fields.
Even with her past qualifications, she’s still prepared to step into some new territory as she learns more about both the construction industry, and what it takes to work in Canada.
“Things are very different here,” she explained. “The climate, the materials, everything. It’s a new challenge, and I love exploring these specific differences in the program.”
The program itself works to develop skills for future success in their sector of choice and provides participants with an industry-recognized safety certification. The entire focus of the project is concerned with workforce development, placing importance on giving female and female-identifying participants the ability to develop the required skills for successful entry into underrepresented positions in the areas of construction, film, and manufacturing.
“We have a real opportunity to make our mark for women entering the workforce,” said Nermine Awad, MCSC’s gender equity coordinator. “We’re addressing a need for both employee and employer.”
For employers, the program is providing them with vetted candidates and encouraging them to continue to hire women. This is emphasized to employers with two half-day workshops that inform and educate on the competitive advantages of hiring women.
EmpowHER also plays an important role, industry aside, as it gives participants a better look into the current working landscape.
“I learn these skills, but I also get the training to know what it takes to work in Canada,” said Afolabi-Ogunsesan. “I’m empowered, I learn the skills, and I feel like it’s teaching me even more than that.”
For those like Afolabi-Ogunsesan, this is an opportunity for them to learn skills at a very deep level, creating a genuine knowledge of these industries. That said, the onus lies on the participant to give it their all on their way to a career.
“Hungry, humble, and smart,” said program manager, Andrea Canada. “That’s who we’re looking for. Women who want to be here, recognize their opportunity for growth, and are willing to share their ideas.”
These three characteristics bring the program to the heights it was designed to go. A first-of-its-kind project, EmpowHER is designed to prepare women for employment in the construction, film, or manufacturing industries in Manitoba.
“It builds connections with employers,” explained Canada. “It opens the door for women in the program to meet directly with those potential workplaces.”
The three sectors have been actively seeking different ways to increase the representation of women in trades, creating a unique opportunity to help take a step forward.
“Film and manufacturing have a generic entry-level position that participants can work towards,” Canada explained. “The construction positions are a bit more specific and are looking for commercial and residential painters.”
The EmpowHER program began on Nov. 6, 2023, and will run as a 12-week internship with 45 participants. Each participant will be able to work within their respective sector, with those in the construction moving into a painting program in early 2024 with support from Sherwin Williams and Purpose Construction.
“EmpowHER is allowing me to express myself practically,” Afolabi-Ogunsesan said. “I’m learning new things and using the skills I learned in my years of experience. It’s a great opportunity.”
The program will run in full time from Nov. 6, 2023, to Feb. 9, 2024. For more information on the EmpowHER program, visit https://mbcsc.com/empowher/.