If I Had a Hammer: Retraining That Really Works


182 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-1119-6
DDC 331.4'2592'0971





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Somewhere in every community college and the office of every provincial
and federal ministry responsible for apprenticeship and/or retraining,
there is a program manager who desperately needs to read this book

It is a description of a Regina, Saskatchewan, project called Women’s
Work Training Program designed to prepare poor women for careers in
carpentry. Many of the participants were single mothers, Aboriginal, or
both. Skills taught include math, communications, carpentry, self-worth,
business skills, management of a cooperative, and barrier-free design
and construction.

Over a period of three years, Little conducted several interviews with
the project organizers and administrators, plus each of 30 program
participants. From this material she presents a picture that includes
systemic racism, the high incidence of violence faced by the poor women,
and the everyday realities of poverty, sexism, and motherhood. She
highlights the enormous difficulties Aboriginal women face on a daily
basis and the subtleties of ingrained racism. She challenges the myths
about poor and single mothers and makes a case against workfare that is
both clear and powerful.

The book is a very readable academic study, marrying a crisp,
fast-paced writing style with all the requirements of quality academic
research. Its structure includes the retraining program’s goals,
design, funding, participant selection criteria, staffing issues,
relational learning principles, operational policies, and evaluation
criteria, as well as a wish list of features that would have enhanced
its effectiveness, had they been available.

Little has produced the clearest analysis and most dynamic work ever
published in Canada on the design and implementation of an effective
retraining program. It should be mandatory reading for social workers,
welfare case managers, trade school and college instructors and
administrators, EI managers, Native leaders, and politicians.


Little, Margaret Hillyard., “If I Had a Hammer: Retraining That Really Works,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29432.