Grade 7 Ecole St.-Pierre students Divine Zahuui (left) and Sophie Memburg try on coveralls at the “Try on a Trade” station on the Skills Ontario Trade and Tech Truck during the “By Girls, For Girls” conference. Mia JensenColleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 12, 2022 at 00:54

By Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

n Ontario, women only make up a fraction of the workforce in skilled trades industry, but a province-wide non-profit organization is looking to change that.

On Tuesday, more than 200 grade seven and eight girls from all four Greater Sudbury school boards gathered at Science North to participate in the “For Girls, By Girls” conference, organized by Skills Ontario.

The event was organized as part of the organization’s celebration of the International Day of the Girl, which is celebrated annually on Oct. 11. Throughout the day, the girls heard from a variety of speakers with a diverse range of expertise in the trades, as well as interactive activities and workshops that provided hands-on learning experiences.

Lindsay Chester, program manager of the Young Women’s Initiative for Skills Ontario, said the conference is an opportunity to empower young girls to explore all the careers in fields typically dominated by men.

“Our goal is to promote the skilled trades to young women and try to get them aware at a young age of what the opportunities are,” she said. “It comes back to a stigma of the skilled trades as dirty jobs, jobs for the boys. So we want to show girls, as much as we can, that they can do these jobs, too.”

The day featured a Keynote addressed by Kendra Liinamaa, a millwright apprentice at Vale and ambassador for Kickass Careers.

Liinamaa, who has been working in the industry for about four years, said breaking into a career in the trades has had its challenges.

“It’s definitely been touch and go,” she said. “A lot of the barriers I find are social. It’s people that are not used to seeing women in trades, or experiencing it for the first time. They don’t know anything else. They don’t know how to change overnight.”

In her conversations with young women, its these kinds of attitudes that make many girls hesitant to consider a job in the skilled trades as a legitimate careers option.

“A lot of them lack confidence in general,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of girls tell me that they think they’re too stupid or not strong enough to join a trade. But I’m here to tell them that they can learn now.”

Throughout the day, the girls discussed their perceptions of technology and the skilled trades, their careers ambitions, their favourite tools, and their interests. The discussions were led by women in these industries, including Liinamaa.

There were also six different workshops to explore different industries. Milwakee Tool hosted a Tools 101 workshop to introduce students to hand tools, power tools, safety productions, and some core trade tools in the M12 and M18 lineup. College Boreal taught participants about the basics of electrical currents, and educator Michael Frankfort hosted a VEX Code VR workshop.

Outside, students climbed aboard Skills Ontario’s Trade and Tech Truck, a mobile unit full of experiential learning stations. Modules included an electrical wall, heavy machinery simulator, hybrid planetary gearset, pneumatics, welding, and a closet-full of trade-specific uniforms and PPE.

Naima-Bella Tverdal, a Grade 7 student from Ecole St.-Denis, said the conference opened her eyes to opportunities available to her that she hadn’t considered before.

Girls her age, she said, don’t often talk about pursuing a career in the skilled trades

“It’s probably the way they grew up, where they were surrounded by people who say only boys can do those types of jobs,” she said. “(The conference) was very inspiring, because young girls don’t really think they can do stuff because they’re told only boys can do that.”

Tverdal said she still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she’s older, but she said skilled trades careers are something she wants to consider.

“I’ve never thought about it before,” she said. “But now that I’m here, I think I want to think about it in the future.”

This item reprinted with permission from   The Sudbury Star    Sudbury, Ontario

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