CORNWALL, Ontario – March 8 is International Women’s Day, an annual day to celebrate the achievements of women, raise awareness of gender bias and take action for equality. In 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 earn students a high school credit as well as a college credit, Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs in Agriculture and Construction, to co-op placements in an auto shop, the UCDSB offers a range of opportunities for students to explore the world of skilled trades.
“This school year, the UCDSB has 160 students who identify as female participating in Ministry of Education-identified skilled trade SHSM programs,” says UCDSB Learning Partner Ashley Grant.
There are a total of 37 SHSM programs that focus on skilled trades in high schools across the district. The programs are in the fields of Agriculture, Construction, Transportation, Environment, Hospitality and Tourism, Manufacturing, Information and Communications Technology, and Horticulture and Landscaping.
Sarah Rowe, a Grade 11 student at St. Lawrence Secondary School (SLSS) is enrolled in a dual-credit welding program this semester. For one day each week over the 15-week program, she attends St. Lawrence College for half a day welding instruction and practice. At the end of the program, she will earn a high school credit and a college credit in welding.
“Although I’ve just started the program, I’m loving it so far,” says Rowe. “I’m excited to learn more about the welding process and use my new skills to fabricate.”
And SLSS has other female students who are equally interested in discovering what a career in the skilled trades would look like.
Grade 10 SLSS student Abby Carl has a strong interest in auto mechanics and plans to take a co-op placement at a local garage in her Grade 11 or Grade 12 year.
“I always loved getting my hands dirty and going to the races,” she says. “I’m excited to learn more about the mechanics side of vehicles.”
While she still has time to decide, Carl is interested in pursuing a career in auto mechanics or space engineering.
Thailand Exchange Student Beebee Pinyotamanotia, currently in Grade 11 at SLSS, is exploring carpentry in a construction course. Involved in the construction of a modular home, Pinyotamanotia explains that her favourite 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 the school.
“I’m 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 portrayed in a profession, it can be intimidating to even start,” says Eric Hardie, Executive Superintendent of Student Success. “Building student confidence and giving them the tools to explore what interests them, no matter their gender, is what public education is all about.”