On December 14, students in Conestoga’s Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program received an unexpected surprise courtesy of Mandy Rennehan, founder and CEO of Freshco.
On December 14, students in Conestoga's WIST program each received a $500 cheque from Freshco to help subsidize living expenses.
“I just want to say thank you for everything you’ve done,” said student Kate Houghton in a video students recorded to thank Rennehan. “I want to say that a lot of people can claim to make a difference in the world and I genuinely think that you do.”
Houghton was one of 16 WIST students to receive a $500 cheque from Freshco - a gift made possible thanks to a partnership agreement between Freshco and Conestoga to help students subsidize their living expenses. Freshco has also directed additional support to the college’s Trades & Apprenticeship program and Rennehan frequently visits the college to mentor WIST students.
Rennehan is recognized as a trailblazer in the Canadian construction industry. 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. She has been nominated twice for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and more recently, was honoured as a recipient of the 2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur award.
Rennehan is also a strong advocate for women in the trades. Freshco has participated in Conestoga’s Jill of all Trades and TNT Days - events that feature hands-on activities related to the skilled trades designed specifically for female high school students to help them explore potential careers.
“Thanks for everything you’ve done for the WIST program this year,” said student Margarett Bent, who also recorded a message for Rennehan. “I want to let you know you’re a real inspiration to me and my fellow classmates as a person we can look up to, as someone who has really started at the ground level and risen to the occasion and come to the top of your field. I aspire to be like you. Thank you for being you and being an inspiration to women and girls.”
Rachel Finstad was among the students to receive a cheque from Freshco and said a class visit Rennehan made in September left an impression: “When you came in at the beginning of the year you said that carpentry -- basically the trades -- is not just a man’s world. It’s a woman’s world too and that’s what I really appreciate. That’s helped me get through this and given me the strength to know that I can accomplish anything.”
WIST is a tuition-free program funded by the provincial Ministry of the Status of Women to support low-income women who are unemployed or underemployed. The goal of the program is to prepare candidates for employment within the construction sector.
This 34-week program provides students with 26 weeks of in-class practical theory and hands-on experience. The in-class portion of the program is designed to help women secure and succeed in their paid eight-week work placement.
WIST helps women gain full-time employment in the trades, but also aims to build self-confidence and provide students with a head-start on achieving apprenticeship certification, if applicable.
For more information, visit the Women in Trades website.