R.D. Parker Collegiate played host to the fourth annual Young Women’s Conference on April 24.
The conference, sponsored by Skills Canada, along with Northern Manitoba Sector Council, Vale, University College of the North and Calm Air among others, is an all day conference aimed at attracting young females to non-traditional career paths in both technical and vocational fields.
A group of close to 100 Grade 8 girls, aged 13 and 14 filled up the R.D. Parker cafeteria where they were educated by guest speakers and mentors from different jobs in the community.
Skills Manitoba Executive Director Maria Pacella was in attendance in Thompson, as one of seven conferences that Skills Manitoba hosts province-wide.
“We work in partnership with the community that we’re in,” said Pacella, “what we try to do with these young women’s conferences is expose these girls to what the different opportunities are for their future.”
The conference is almost entirely interactive and hands-on, with the girls circulating the room in groups in a speed-dating format, visiting with 15 different female mentors from the community.
The mentors included a mine survey technician with Vale, a power supply worker with Manitoba Hydro, a welder with Smook Contractors and many others.
“These girls are all on the verge of high school and deciding what they want to do career wise,” said Pacella, “the mentors are here to tell them about what they do and why, and to show the girls what is out there for them.”
The shortage of skilled workers countrywide has been well documented says Pacella, and the shortage in the North is even more drastic.
“In order to meet these shortages we need to involve women, we need to get women in the workforce and in to non-traditional trades more than ever,” said Pacella, “with the one million short that we’re going to see by the year 2020, we will not be able to fulfill that without women involved.”
The girls were given a hands-on tour of the school and were given the opportunity to touch and build things, as well as participate in team building activities.
Pacella says that the conferences are not aimed at directly steering girls down a specific path but rather to provide education and information.
“We did a conference in The Pas, and one of the mentors there was aboriginal, and a lot of the girls in The Pas are aboriginal,” said Pacella, “and this mentor was a long haul truck driver, and you can’t imagine how excited those girls got because they saw, for one, someone they can relate to, and two a woman that is doing a job they didn’t ever think a woman would be doing a job like that. It’s about discovering things that they didn’t know were possible for them.”