By Brittany Grimsdale, Sask Polytech WITT provincial facilitator (acting)
The Saskatchewan Polytechnic Women in Trades & Technology program works with instructors, employers, professionals and non-profits to build curriculum for camps, workshops and mentorship programs. The goal is to teach women valuable skills, encourage women to think about different career options and address barriers that may limit women in trades and technology.
Last summer Sask Polytech offered six week-long camps for girls ages 12-15. Girls Exploring Trades and Technology and Mind Over Metal camps provided participants with a safe, supportive environment to explore the tools, equipment and skills needed for a trades and technology career. Sask Polytech has been running girls’ summer camps since 1991. This past year we had 81 girls attend the camps. Final projects included building a desk out of recycled pallets and welding roses.
I am always amazed to see how much our camp participants flourish in a week. It is incredible to see them grow in self-confidence and by the end of the week they are completely competent in using a variety of tools. It’s so empowering!
But at WITT we do more than work with teenagers. Last year we connected 30 female students with 30 mentors from industry, including construction, plumbing and information technology sectors. Women are matched on field of expertise, family situation or cultural background. The mentorship program included a few networking events throughout the year, which are great opportunities for the women to discuss challenges, celebrate wins and learn about new job opportunities. These connections have enabled our current students to navigate their studies and help new grads find employment.
We also hosted a number of lunches for female students in 2018 to bring women together for discussion and support as they work through the challenges of pursuing an education in predominantly male industries. More than 200 students attended these lunches with presentations focused on apprenticeship, workplace harassment and scholarship opportunities.
A new initiative launched in 2018 was program specific tutors for female students looking for additional academic support free of charge. Being able to access tutors that specialize in their fields means that these students are given every opportunity to excel in their program and feel confident in their learning journey.
I’m really excited for everything the WITT team has accomplished in 2018 and am looking forward to where we will go in 2019! I am inspired by the number of female students following their dreams and pursuing a trades and technology education with Sask Polytech. More women in trades and technology means a broader diversity of perspectives and opinions in the field.
For more information visit saskpolytech.ca/witt.
This article was originally published in the Saskatchewan Construction Association's We Build magazine.
Published January 2019.