Females are significantly under-represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, making up just 22 percent of the total workforce in these careers, according to Statistics Canada.
To get more young women interested in skilled trades and tech-related jobs, Skills Ontario hosted a career exploration event for girls in grades 9-12 from across Northwestern Ontario at La Place Rendez-Vous on Thursday.
“There is such a shortage of women in the trades,” said Michelle Crow, the Skills Ontario liaison officer.
“This event really just encourages and pushes girls to try different things, and try those jobs that aren't necessarily considered 'female-orientated jobs,” she noted.
About 100 students from Fort High, Rainy River, Kenora, Dryden, Atikokan, Ignace, and Sioux Lookout attended the event and heard about careers from a range of women who work in skilled trades and tech.
The 11 female mentors ranged from welders, drillers and automotive apprentices to web designers.
“Those are big careers that are pretty cool to learn about,” Crow lauded.
Skills Ontario and its partners held similar events across the province, providing students with hands-on experiences and mentorship.
The event is meant to build confidence in these students and show them they can be successful if they're willing to put their best foot forward, said Crow.
“Just that empowerment and that feeling of 'I can do this,' that's the main goal essentially for any of our programs at Skills Ontario,” she explained.
“It's just to provide them with that encouragement,” she reiterated.
“Sometimes people are shy to try new things so we're just trying to build their confidence to be able to do that.”
Crow said it's important to host these types of events to fill existing gaps in the workforce.
“We are in a skilled trades shortage so we are looking for more workers,” she remarked.
“The 'baby-boomers' are retiring so we need to get more people into the trades.”
“Females are so under-represented,” Crow noted.
“Lots of females think, 'I can't do this because I'm a girl,' so it's really important that we get rid of the gender stereotypes,” she stressed.
The facts reflect this, with less than 14 percent of those in registered apprenticeship programs being female, according to Statistics Canada.
And less than three percent of all apprentices in construction, automotive, and industry trades are women.
To encourage more girls to pursue skilled trades and tech-related jobs, Crow recommends taking shop classes and trying a co-op.
“At the high schools where I go in and do presentations, I tell them to get out there, ask questions, and go to events like this,” she said.
“Because meeting people who work in the field essentially is the best way to learn about those jobs,” she reasoned.