Women in Canadian Manufacturing

Hiram Walker & Sons and Build a Dream working to diversify workforce

October 14, 2021
By Canadian Manufacturing Avatar photo
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Sometimes it takes an introduction and a bit of encouragement to bring two parties together. That is just what happened when Build a Dream president, Nour Hachem-Fawaz encouraged Rebecca Chenier, a Red Seal Machinist, to apply to Hiram Walker & Sons. The company was searching for a Bottling Mechanic for their Bottling Division and Chenier had the right qualifications – as a Red Seal Machinist. Angelo DeMarco, Senior Director, Human Resources North American Operations, was eager to include Chenier in the interviews and after a rigorous application process, Chenier was hired for the job.

Hachem-Fawaz met Chenier six years ago when Chenier applied for the Industrial Mechanic Millwright pre-apprenticeship program at Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor (WEST). “I interviewed Rebecca for the position as a pre-apprentice and she volunteered at Build a Dream’s early Career Discovery Expos. I knew she had a passion for the trades and more importantly I knew she had the skills and talent to do a fabulous job for Hiram Walker.”

“I was attracted to Hiram Walker because it is such a big part of our city’s history”, says Chenier. “This position provides me with the chance to not only be a general machinist but to learn and expand my skills.” As a Bottling Mechanic, Chenier is responsible for preventative maintenance, equipment repair and overall bottling efficiencies within the plant. While there are several women on the floor as technicians, Chenier is the first woman in the maintenance department.

Finding qualified women for any skilled trades position can be a challenge. According to Brendan Sweeney, Managing Director of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, only 3.8% of General Machinists in Canada are women with Ontario coming in at 4%, and Windsor falling below the Ontario average at 2.7%.

Through Build a Dream’s Workforce Initiative Network (WIN) and partnership with Hiram Walker, the organization is working directly with industry to help attract, recruit, retain and advance women. “WIN was developed by our organization specifically to support industry as they look for strategies to diversify their workforce”, says Hachem-Fawaz. “We are launching a new series of diversity and inclusion events called Stir It Up which are designed to help human resource professionals explore best practices in this space. We anticipate a lot of interest in this quarterly event series.”

According to Hachem-Fawaz, the low representation statistics are exactly why Build a Dream exists:

“For many industries, particularly those facing skills gaps, it’s time to show young women the opportunities that are out there. We are working to bring awareness and inspiration to students and educate parents that there are multiple careers available to reach your dreams.”