Women in Construction

Virtual Event
Women in Construction 2023
March 8, 2023 at 11:25am ET

Session #1 – Attracting Women to your Construction Business

Moderator: Melissa Young, CEO and Registrar, Skilled Trades Ontario


  • Jessica Bannister, Level 3 HVAC/R Apprentice, Cam Cool Refrigeration
  • Elizabeth (Beth) Buckmaster, Director, Client and Stakeholder Relations, Power, Hatch
  • Natasha Ferguson, Founder and Principal, Ethelfox Construct Group
You’ve decided to make an effort to increase female participation in your workforce... but where do you start?  

Our moderator and panelists will share practical advice that you can use to develop plans and strategies for attracting women to the construction sector in general, and to your business specifically.

Melissa has over 20 years of experience in workforce development and the skilled trades. Her work focuses on promoting the trades, harmonizing apprenticeships, developing partnerships with First Nations communities, Indigenous groups, labour and management, and influencing the national landscape for apprenticeship.

Prior to leading Skilled Trades Ontario, Melissa served as Executive Director of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO), an alliance of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to promote national Red Seal standards and safety in electrical skills training.

Between 2000 and 2009, Melissa was the Executive Director of the Carpenters Training Centre of New Brunswick where, under her leadership, the training institute grew more than ten-fold.

Melissa has served as past Chair of the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship’s Communication and Promotion Committee, and as a Board member of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

She was also appointed to the Government of Ontario’s Skilled Trades Panel, which consulted extensively and produced a report that informed the development of the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021—the landmark legislation which modernized Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

Jessica is a Level 3 HVAC/R apprentice at her family’s business, Cam Cool Refrigeration (Vancouver), which specializes in commercial and industrial heating and cooling.

She joined the family business in 2017, working in the office. She registered as an apprentice shortly thereafter.

Jessica is the current president of Women in HVAC/R Canada. She wants to bring more awareness of the skilled trades—specifically HVAC/R—to women, and encourages young people to consider a career in the skilled trades.

You can follow her on Instagram at @HVACjess and on YouTube at “The HVAC Diaries”.

Beth has nearly 20 years of experience in the engineering, construction and energy industries, with a focus on clean energy over the last 12 years. She develops and manages client, partner and stakeholder engagement strategies for emerging markets to advance the company’s brand and grow business, while personally developing important relationships with relevant stakeholders.

She leads the company’s external market growth team, and is a member of Hatch’s Diversity and Inclusion Design team, whose goal is to help Hatch clients design an inclusive built environment.

A passionate leader in the clean energy sector, Beth was recently recognized as one of the 100 Women leading Canada’s energy transition. She is an active industry member, and sits on industry boards such as Organization for Canadian Nuclear Industries (2018-2020) and Canadian Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association (present). She is currently co-chair of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Hydrogen Awareness Working Group in support of the Hydrogen Strategy for Canada.

Natasha is the founder and principal of Ethelfox Construct Group, a Toronto-based full-service construction and development company, which provides design and build services for residential homes.

She helps break down barriers for women and people of colour in the construction industry.

In addition to leading one of Canada’s only female-owned and -operated construction companies, she is the co-founder of “A Women’s Work”—a non-profit organization that trains, supports and advocates for women in the trades.

Natasha has also been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women (2022) by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), under the “CP Skilled Trades” category, which recognizes “outstanding women who contribute immense value and demonstrate excellence in skilled trades, product or service innovation and community involvement”.