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Skills Ontario event aimed at getting girls interested and excited about trades (8 photos)

The Young Women’s Career Exploration Event saw approximately 200 students from Grade 7 and Grade 8 get together to learn and experience what's available to them

You might not think much about building a tower using just newspaper and tape, but the conversation that it sparks about blueprints, engineers and several uncommon trades was the focus of a Skills Ontario event for women on Thursday.

The project was one of the several activities approximately 200 Grade 7 and Grade 8 girls participated in as part of the Young Women’s Career Exploration Event which introduces several trades to women at a young age so they can consider various trades even before they enter high school. 

“The events have become so popular, that were piloting the events for Grade 7 and 8 this year,” said Jennifer Green, the director of competitions and young women’s Initiatives at Skills Ontario adding that in the Linamar location, they generally hold events for Grades nine to 12.”  

The event sponsored by Linamar and held at the Frank Hasenfratz Centre For Excellence In Manufacturing saw students hear from workers in the field, work on team-building exercises and listen to keynote speakers discuss a range of trade fields such as electrical, plumbing, tower building, engineering and even the ones most people don’t think of such as elevator device mechanics.

“I read the form that my teacher gave me and I saw that it said women’s career event and I was really interested because I want to see what women can do and it’s not just the men that are doing the hard work, and it could be women as well,” said Grade 7 student Keeshia Contaoi.

With the government recently spending millions of dollars to promote the skills trades in youth, Green says they’ve seen an increase of women taking an interest in the trades in recent years. 

“Were so happy to see it because with babyboomers retiring more and more, the trade deficit is going to be massive in the next couple of years,” says Green. 

Green says that Skills Ontario is increasingly hearing that young students want to learn about the trades. She says it is important to find unique and clever ways to be able to describe the trades that the general majority isn’t familiar with. 

Green says while there are  144 registered trades in Ontario, most people don’t know what any of them are.

“Everybody knows what a doctor is, everybody knows what a lawyer is, I’m a licenced industrialized mechanic millwright. Nobody knows what that is,” says Green. 

“For my trade, in particular, I always talk about a metaphor. I’m a doctor of a machine. It’s the exact same thing. I troubleshoot a machine, I fix a machine and I put it back together.”

She said finding ways to explain to students and finding what to connect with how they understand gives the students an opportunity to understand what is out there. 

Grade 8 student Erika Lacsamana said in-school presentations about the trades heightened her interest in the trades. 

“I was leaning more towards University but here, it opened my mind a lot more,” Lacsamana adding that it was the information about the trades that made her think positively about it.”