Conestoga news

June 5, 2017 7:46 AM

Jill of all Trades introduces young women to skilled trades careers

On May 31, approximately 200 young women in grades 9 through 12 attended Conestoga’s Jill of all Trades at the Cambridge campus. Hosted in conjunction with the School College Work Initiative - Grand Connections regional planning team, the event provided female students opportunities to explore the potential of careers in the skilled trades.

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Mandy Rennehan, founder and CEO of Freshco, meets with high school students at Conestoga's Jill of all Trades on May 31 at the Cambridge campus. The event encourages young women to explore careers in the skilled trades.

“There’s no reason women can’t be in the skilled trades and I’m hoping you walk away with that in your mind,” said Julia Biedermann, executive dean, School of Engineering and Information Technology, when she welcomed students to the campus. “We’re facing a skills shortage in Canada so it’s really important to get young women into this field.”

Throughout the day, students participated in hands-on workshops led by female mentors to learn more about various trades including carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing and heavy equipment operation. Keynote speaker Mandy Rennehan, founder and CEO of Freshco, met with students while they participated in their workshops.

“Too many people wait for things to happen. If you have the tenacity to be what you want to be, then you can do anything,” said Rennehan during her address. “The world needs more people like you stepping up to the plate.”

Rennehan is recognized as a trailblazer in the Canadian construction industry and for her efforts to empower women to join the trades. Atlantic Business Magazine named her one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs for 2017, and in 2016 she was ranked among the top 20 female entrepreneurs in the country. 

Freshco is a unique, trend-setting retail construction company that provides 24/7 on-call retail maintenance across Canada and the eastern United States for high-end international brands. Rennehan said women make up 60 per cent of Freshco’s staff and the company employs three Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) graduates from Conestoga.

Last December, Freshco entered into a partnership with the college to provide WIST students with bursaries to subsidize their living expenses. During her address, Rennehan said the partnership has meant a great deal to her.

“You only need to be you,” she reminded the young women. “You don’t need money. We can help people like you be amazing.”

In addition to Jill of all Trades, Conestoga hosts Trades and Technology (TNT) Days, which Freshco has also participated in. TNT provides hands-on activities related to different careers in the construction, industrial, motive power, engineering and architectural industries for female students in grades seven to 10.

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 Trades & Apprenticeship website.