Is your plumber a woman? What about your mechanic or electrician?
Women are slowly moving into the skilled trades, but they still make up less than 10 per cent of registered apprentices in Canada. The young women’s conferences being held in conjunction with the Ontario Technological Skills competition at RIM Park next week aim to boost that number.
The conference includes guest speakers and time to network with women working in a wide range of sectors, from bricklaying to gem setting, aerospace technology, IT, steam fitting and nuclear power.
“A lot of young women may not have opportunities to speak with other women that are currently in the trades, so we hope they’ll take away the stories and positive reinforcement that there are vibrant career options in the trades,” said Carolyn Hartlen, public relations director for Skills Canada Ontario.
Hartlen pointed out that the skilled trades offer good wages and stability for women, and said they’ve had positive feedback from both educators and the young women themselves after previous networking events.
“This is an event that creates a change in their decision. It reaffirms that what they were considering for post secondary education is the path they want to take.”
The conferences, being held at Bingemans in Kitchener, will also include a tour of the skills competition. More than 1,800 competitors from across the province will be competing in more than 60 trade and technology areas from aircraft maintenance to video production.
Students have to complete practical challenges designed to test the skills required in their chosen trade and technology fields. Some $5 million worth of tools, equipment and supplies are provided by sponsoring organizations for the competition.
Hartlen noted that the competition has been expanding every year, having grown from 1,600 participants last year. The provincial competition will be held May 17 and 18 at RIM Park.
The gold medalists from the provincial competition will advance to the national event, also being held at RIM Park May 20-23. The top finishers from the nationals will then represent Canada at the world skills competition in London, England in 2011.
The national event is open to the public, and it’s a great family event, Hartlen said. People can try skills like bricklaying for themselves, taste food samples from the culinary and baking competitions, watch the robotics competition, check out the aircraft on site, and talk to representatives from community colleges and trade associations.
“If somebody is considering a change in careers or they have a young person in the home who is still undecided about what they might want to chose for after high school, this is the place to come.”