Students in Conestoga’s Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program received a holiday surprise on December 11 when Mandy Rennehan, CEO of retail maintenance and construction company, Freshco, joined students virtually to share news that she had arranged a Christmas gift for each of them.
Cambria Olding was one of 22 Women in Skilled Trades students to receive a $250 cheque from Freshco CEO Mandy Rennehan.
“It’s important to us that you have the best Christmas you possibly can so that you’re all revved up to get back into the classroom after that,” said Rennehan before announcing that each of the 22 students would receive a $250 cheque on behalf of Freshco.
To help students offset their expenses, Rennehan has been delivering an annual Christmas gift to WIST students since 2016. The tuition-free program is funded by the provincial government to support low-income women who are unemployed or underemployed prepare for careers within the construction sector. In the past, women in the program have used the Freshco gift to purchase tools or provide for their family.
“One woman in the trades is an army and one of my biggest mandates - which is very ambitious - is taking the number of women (in the trades) from 4 per cent to 40 per cent in the next decade. And why? Not only do we have a systemic trades shortage, we do not have enough women - and the skill sets that women bring to the table - in this very dynamic industry,” said Rennehan. “Being here is the best decision that you could have ever made for yourself, for your family, for your career.”
Like other organizations, Rennehan said Freshco experienced a hard year as a result of the pandemic. The company had to cut back on the amount gifted to students, but remains committed to supporting the women in the program and their future in the trades.
Nadine Jannetta, liaison officer for WIST and ETT4W (Engineering, Technology & Trades For Women) said Rennehan’s ongoing support, and attendance at the college’s trades and technology events for young women continues to make a difference: “Mandy’s message is always so inspirational and is especially welcome during the 2020 holidays when we know that everyone is struggling to find their holiday cheer.”
Julie Gillis, Conestoga’s manager, Donor Relations & Stewardship, said that despite the difficulties and setbacks everyone has faced recently, partners like Freshco have continued to think of others and have gone above and beyond to support the college’s students.
“Everyone’s had a hard year, but we’ve found our donors are really stepping up,” said Gillis. “Many gave to our emergency student fund, others have increased their giving, and in some cases, doubled what they were able to provide last year. This generosity really makes a difference to our students who are facing more difficulty this year because they haven’t been able to secure employment.”
For more information about supporting Conestoga’s students and programs, contact Julie Gillis.