In recognition of National Construction Day (Nov. 30), Mandy Rennehan, The Blue Collar CEO, is making her message known: “If we don’t fix the perception behind the trades industry we are screwed.”

It’s something she’s been reiterating for a decade, because the key to combatting the labour shortage is to make the skilled trades more relatable so women and other underrepresented groups can see how they fit in.

“There’s not a skilled trades shortage coming. It’s here and it has been for a long time,” Rennehan told the Diamond Demolish.

“The skills that are lacking in this industry is literally, truly a tsunami that is hitting the world. Nobody wanted to admit that it was happening.”

For a long time, the perception was those who go into the trades are male, big, strong and not highly educated.

“When you’ve got a vast industry…and all you are seeing is predominately white men, it’s a very daunting reality to think that you would fit there,” Rennehan said.

“It’s really the narrative and the perception behind the industry that I’m changing so that people can see how they relate.

“They fit in this industry so well and they always have, but by everyday standards they didn’t feel welcome because there was nobody in there for them to look up to and aspire to be.”

A Yarmouth, N.S. native, Rennehan is the founder of, a full service, 24/7, on-call retail maintenance provider.

She is also currently working on a new HGTV series called Trading Up in Yarmouth, which was hit hard during the pandemic. The show will focus on the trades and Rennehan will mentor apprentices while renovating three properties. The show is expected to air in 2022.

“The whole cast is full of diversity, from women to transgender, to gay to Indigenous to just females in trades in general,” she said.

“The most exciting part of all that, that’s going on television, these people have kickass personalities and they are relatable and they are talented.

When it comes to the jobsite, women balance everything out, she explained.

“I started to realize early on how much better the construction industry could be with the way that a female thinks about projects and thinks about organization and thinks about health and safety,” she said.

The hole in the industry has been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people renovating their homes and buying bigger properties. More highly skilled people are also going to be needed to implement more modern and green technologies into buildings.

“It’s going to take a mixing pot of anybody and everybody who really sees themselves in this type of industry to be part of it,” she pointed out.

“Right now, women that are in the industry that have seen people like me…there is a sense of comfort and confidence of coming in and knowing, ‘Wow, I love it here, I wish I hadn’t gone to university.’ It’s really giving people the ability to have choices that they never had when I was growing up. If you wanted to be respected and make money you became a doctor or a lawyer.”

The message needs to change.

“I am living proof down here in a seaside town in Nova Scotia, you can’t find anybody. Everybody is booked a year, a year-and-half out. The tradespeople are exhausted and they are overwhelmed because of the restoring and building that needs to happen for our aging infrastructure.

“Those that went to university, half of them didn’t make it and they’re out there wandering around going ‘what am I going to do?’” Rennehan explained. “I’ll tell you what you do. This is where you need to be because it’s great for your mind, it’s great for your body, it’s…good for your pocketbook.”

Rennehan said women and other individuals like her have worked hard over the years to knock down some of the barriers.

“Now it’s time for everybody to enter, lift up the windows to let the stale stank out for a house that should have never been built there to begin with,” she stated.
So what can be done to break down these barriers?

“It’s visibility,” Rennehan said. “There are a lot more companies out there today that are willing to understand that women come with a separate set of instructions and that human resources needs to be very much front and centre.

“You might have had two bathrooms that had a male on them but now we’re living in a world that there needs to be unisex washrooms.

“There needs to be washrooms that cater to every pronoun and this should have been happening years ago. I think there is an ethical movement happening in this industry.”

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