Conestoga news

June 4, 2015 4:37 AM

Young women explore careers in the trades

More than 175 young women from eight local school boards attended Conestoga’s Jill of all Trades event held June 3 at the Cambridge campus.

Hosted in partnership with the School College Work Initiative - Grand Connection Regional Planning Team, the day-long event provided students in grades 9 through 12 with the opportunity to explore a career in the trades through a variety of hands-on workshops. Some of the workshops included carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing and heavy equipment operation.

President John Tibbits welcomed the students, who were joined by school board representatives, Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program coordinators, representatives from the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities and other community partners.

Julia Biedermann, executive dean of the Schools of Engineering & Information Technology, Trades & Apprenticeship and the Institute of Food Processing Technology, reminded students that their experiences throughout the day will assist in planning for their post-secondary education.

“Think about what you’re doing today and what you like,” said Biedermann. “When you have to choose your courses in the next year or two, think about where you want to be. We hope you get the exposure you need to make an informed decision.”

Danielle Bryk, host of HGTV’s Bryk House, provided the keynote address. She reflected on her journey into the trades industry and also offered some surprising statistics for the students.

“The skilled trades industry is booming. There are more cranes in use in Toronto than there are in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago combined,” said Bryk. “The demand is already here and we’re already facing a shortage. In the next 5 to ten years, 40 per cent of existing tradespeople are expected to retire.”

Bryk also noted that while women make up 50 per cent of the work force, they account for less than five per cent of all construction jobs, with fewer apprentices in the ranks. She said women only account for two per cent of carpentry apprentices and slightly less than two per cent of plumbing apprentices.

“The shortage is because of deep-seated stereotypes about the industry and why women aren’t suited to it,” said Bryk. She left the young women in the room with the following advice: “It doesn’t matter what they think. Worry very much about what you think.”

When asked about their experiences throughout the day, one student at the truck and coach workshop said she had fun, but also appreciated hearing Bryk and seeing her in person. “Danielle is really small and doesn’t look like someone in construction. I’m the only girl in my woodworking class so I’m the shortest and have to look up at all the guys. I’m not going to worry about that any more.”

Conestoga is among the province’s largest providers of apprenticeship training, and provides pathways to success through pre-apprenticeship and foundational programs in a variety of trades areas for students to develop their skills and knowledge.

The School of Trades & Apprenticeship delivers a comprehensive array of skilled trades programs through campuses and training centres in Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, Guelph and Ingersoll. For more information, visit the School website.