Young women across North America have the chance to try their hand at different skilled trades thanks to an event started by Conestoga College that is spreading quickly to communities across the continent.
November 5 through 11 is National Skilled Trades and Technology Week. Conestoga's Jill of All Trades gives young women the opportunity for hands-on experience in the skilled trades.
Conestoga founded Jill of All Trades in 2014 to give young women in grades 9 through 12 the opportunity for hands-on experience in the skilled trades and learn more about the potential of a trades career from female mentors.
The event began expanding to campuses across Canada in fall 2022.
This school year, Jill of All Trades will be hosted by 10 colleges in Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba, as well as the first American college in Ohio. By 2026, Jill of All Trades plans to expand to 25 campuses across Canada and 20 in the United States, delivering more than 120 events that engage close to 50,000 participants.
“The impact we’re hoping to have across North America is to move the needle of young women starting to choose skilled trades careers,” said Rosie Hessian, chair of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and director of Jill of All Trades.
November 5 through 11 is National Skilled Trades and Technology Week.
The Jill of All Trades program aims to address the urgent need for skilled trades workers. One out of five new jobs are in the skilled trades.
Local, provincial and national sponsors support the program, and participants also get the chance to connect with employers and industry partners. Conestoga provides an operational plan and support to campuses hosting a Jill of All Trades event to successfully duplicate the program.
Conestoga is a leader in skilled trades training for women. Through gender-specific programs and mentoring opportunities such as Jill of All Trades, the college encourages women to pursue careers in under-represented and non-traditional occupations.
This year’s local Jill of All Trades event was held at the college’s new Skilled Trades campus on Reuter Drive in Cambridge, which will be Canada’s largest, most comprehensive trades education and training facility when the multi-phase development is completed.
More than 280 high school girls attended the all-day gathering in May, where they could pick from 18 hands-on trades workshops. They were introduced to the program’s North American ambassador Mandy Rennehan, the “Blue-Collar CEO” and founder of a multi-million dollar construction company as well as an award-winning entrepreneur, HGTV host and outspoken advocate for the skilled trades.
The young women in attendance are given a signature orange shirt with the Jill of All Trades logo and a backpack, plus meals throughout the event.
“The girls are treated really special and that’s the idea,” Hessian said. "At the beginning of the day, the participants are quite shy and hesitant. But that shifts as the event goes on and the young women join in different workshops, trying their hands at different skills and realizing they’re able to do it. The energy level increases to an impressive level by the end of the day.”
Conestoga is a provincial leader in the delivery of trades and apprenticeship training to serve industry needs and the growing community. Comprehensive programming includes a wide range of post-secondary trades programs that provide pathways to employment in skilled trades careers as well as pre-apprenticeship training and in-school training for apprentices.