New SD 73 program aims to give girls hands-on experience in trades

By Dylana Milobar
January 11, 2019 - 5:21pm

KAMLOOPS — It's traditionally been a male-dominated industry, but over the years more and more women are stepping into skilled trades.

However, according to a recent study by Statistics Canada, women might form about half the population of Canada, but still only make up 14 per cent of trades apprentices.

A new program run through School District 73 is working to change that. 

The two-day course at Thompson Rivers University is being offered to female students in Grades 7 to 9, giving them a chance to try their hand at a new skill, and opening the doors to a career in the trades.

Kerry Gairdner, SD 73's Coordinator of Trades and Transitions helped organize the mini-sampler program offered by the Trades and Transitions department of the district.

"Two days, four different trades, giving them two hours each, and had some wonderful presenters come in to talk to the women."

Under the guidance of certified tradespeople, students got a chance to try out power engineering, refrigeration and air conditioning, electrical and instrumentation activities over the last two days.

"It's just really neat that girls are exposed to something different. That they see what they can do after high school, and just get them thinking," Gairdner says. "And if trades is what they go for great, and if not, at least they've been to TRU and kind of experienced the university life as well."

Organizers brought in professionals who see every day how few women actually have jobs in the various trades, like Sari Cox, a Sawmill Maintenance Planner with Tolko.

"I worked in mill construction for about 23 years, and then I was in other project management as well and during all of that time, there was virtually no women," she explains. "But in the last seven to 10 years there's starting to be girls entering the trades. We saw them first start to show up as electrial apprentices mostly, doing house wiring."

Cox says industry positions will need to be filled soon, with the bulk of tradespeople nearing retirement age. That's why those in the trades know the value of programs like these.

"We're rushing towards a cliff when it comes to lack of trades people, and so having girl trained up, along with the guys too, not forgetting the guys at all, but having a new crop of trades people come up from our youth is really important."

The two day program wrapped up today, and plans to continue and bring it back next year are in the works.

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