CORNWALL, Ontario – March 8 is International Women’s Day, an annual day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness of gender bias and take action for equality. At the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), young female students are breaking gender stereotypes by exploring opportunities in male-dominated fields of work.
From dual-credit programs that allow students to earn high school credit as well as college credit, from Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs in agriculture and construction, to co-op placements in an auto shop, UCDSB offers a range of opportunities for students to explore the world of skilled trades.
“This school year, UCDSB has 160 female-identifying students participating in the skilled trades SHSM programs identified by the Department of Education,” says Ashley Grant, UCDSB Learning Partner .
There are a total of 37 skilled trades-oriented SHSM programs in high schools across the district. Programs are in agriculture, construction, transportation, environment, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, information and communications technology, horticulture and landscaping.
Sarah Rowe, a grade 11 student at St. Lawrence High School (SLSS) is enrolled in a dual-credit welding program this semester. For one day a week during the 15-week program, she attends St. Lawrence College for a half-day of welding instruction and practice. Upon completion of the program, she will earn one high school credit and one college credit in welding.
“Even though I’ve just started the program, I love it so far,” says Rowe. “I’m excited to learn more about the welding process and use my new skills to manufacture.”
And SLSS has other female students who are also interested in finding out what a career in the skilled trades would look like.
Abby Carl, a 10th grade student at SLSS, has a great interest in auto mechanics and plans to do a co-op placement at a local garage in her 11th or 12th grade.
“I always liked to get my hands dirty and go shopping,” she says. “I’m excited to learn more about the mechanical side of the vehicles.”
Although she still has time to make up her mind, Carl wants to pursue a career in auto mechanics or space engineering.
Beebee Pinyotamanotia, an exchange student in Thailand, currently in grade 11 at SLSS, explores carpentry as part of a building class. Involved in building a modular home, Pinyotamanotia says her favorite part of the build is the wiring. “It’s very rewarding when the lights come on,” she says.
Rowe and Carl are also enrolled in the construction course at school.
“I am proud that we are able to create learning environments that give young women the confidence and opportunity to pursue career paths in the trades. When people don’t see themselves represented in a profession, it can even be intimidating to get started,” says Eric Hardie, Executive Superintendent of Student Success. “Building students’ confidence and giving them the tools to explore what interests them, regardless of gender, is the essence of public education.