SLC hosts local trades exposition for girls

Girls in Kingston and surrounding towns had an opportunity to explore the trades on Thursday.

An event organized by Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) saw grade 7 and 8 students from the Limestone District School Board (LDSB), Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB), and Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) visit St. Lawrence College to attend interactive demos and meet local industry professionals.

OYAP hosts a number of events on a yearly basis to encourage students to consider the trades as a viable a career option, but Thursday's was focused specifically on showing young girls in the area that working in a trade is something they can do despite how male dominated they currently are.

Only 5% of workers in the skilled trades are women, and OYAP would like to see that increase in the coming years.

LDSB OYAP recruiter Courtney Soucy says doing so will benefit the industries themselves, as women can bring different perspectives to the work site.

"It's actually proven that women on a job site increase safety," Soucy said.

"There's no fear to ask for help and look for other options, there's more attention to detail. So having women on the job site is actually great for employers."

In general, Soucy says, the trades are underserved and that's part of why the process of building new homes, cars or other projects tend to take such a long time.

In years past, the trades have been looked at as a last resort for many people, but that attitude has generally been shaken.

Soucy says now it's about encouraging students to see it as an option as early as high school.

"These are viable options that are available to you right away, but also they make really great money," Soucy said.

"Sometimes it's letting students know that you can right jump in and you'll be making great money right out of high school... We need all of these trades to make the company and the world thrive."

Today, within LDSB's skilled trades programs about 23% of students are girls, and OYAP hopes events like this one continue to increase that ratio.

On Thursday, a keynote speaker for the event was Logan Williams, who at just 24 has started teaching automotive technician classes at Napanee District Secondary School.

She got into the trade after taking auto classes in high school, excelling at automotive painting enough to win gold in a skills competition in the twelfth grade.

While Williams says the percentage of girls in class hasn't really increased since she was in high school herself, she hopes her presence as the teacher might further encourage more girls to take the class.

She says it's certainly intimidating to break into the male dominated workforce, but it's achievable.

"It definitely was intimidating, you have to have a lot of confidence," Williams said.

"But as long as you advocate for yourself and advocate for your equal opportunities and everything then it's okay."

195 girls across the three school boards participated in the event, while 16 businesses were on hand with information boots.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News