More than 100 Lower Mainland high school girls gathered in Abbotsford, B.C. this month to explore careers in the trades. Geared towards increasing awareness and opportunities for female students in Grades 9 to 12 from various high schools, the 2017 Skilled Trades and Technology Conference for young women connected the girls with women employed in a diverse range of trades and technology sectors.
The girls participated in a "Speed Career Information" session, going from table to table chatting with female mentors about their lives in the trades industry.
There was also a hands-on activities workshop.
According to Skills Canada BC, the event has multiple benefits; women who have found successful careers have an opportunity to network with other women from a variety of industries and they will have a chance to share their insights and stories with the young female participants.
"This event was really to open their eyes and let them know there are a lot of opportunities for women and not just for guys," said Kerri Miller, who is the vice-president of member services for the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA). "Going the university route is fantastic but there are more than one pathway to success and happiness."
The PCA brought some tradeswomen in to answer questions about pay, travel, career advancement opportunities, training and more.
"We really want to be highlighting opportunities," said Miller, noting that B.C. faces a looming skilled trades crisis as older workers retire and the amount of large projects increase.
"Women are 50 per cent of the population and if we could get those folks interested that would be fantastic."
According to the Industry Training Authority, female participation in trades over the past few years has increased from eight per cent to over 10 per cent. The authority noted, however, that more work needs to be done, especially reaching women in their younger years.