Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Women in Trades and Technology is going virtual

Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) at Saskatchewan Polytechnic provides support for students who identify as female and are interested in trades and technology careers. They also provide hands-on exposure opportunities in a safe and supportive environment for those wanting to explore educational options for trades or technology programs, which have historically been male occupations.

Brittany Grimsdale, WITT program head, highlights the importance of women in trades and providing more women information on available career options, “for the last 50 years, the percentage of women in trades has not grown beyond four per cent. Support and encouragement for tradeswomen are crucial for success and growth.”

Although women entering male dominated industries such as the trades are enduring less negativity than before programs like WITT were established, there are still obstacles to overcome such as workplace harassment and a lack of experience or confidence. Grimsdale notes that this is why WITT’s workshops and mentorship are so important, “sometimes the only issue is that a young woman hasn’t had the chance to explore which trade may be the best fit for her and so shies away from them.”

While in-person workshops and camps are not possible at this time due to COVID-19, WITT has adjusted by adding virtual options to stay connected including the Skills Work Young Women’s Conference, Plan Program Play and Mechanical Engineering Coding camps.

The annual Skills Work Young Women’s Conference is a free one-day conference held in conjunction with the Provincial Skills competition, where competitors from across the province compete against other apprentices in the trades and technologies.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s conference and competition were cancelled. After making several changes to the conference format, WITT was able to deliver sessions virtually and open it up to all women who were interested in learning about the trades. “We hope that participants realized the huge amount of possible trades and technologies out there, as well as learned about the steps of apprenticeship and will think about pursuing one that calls to them,” adds Grimsdale.

In addition to the making the conference virtual, WITT offered some of their summer camps online. Plan Program Play, a virtual three-day computer game programming workshop for students, was held in June. This virtual camp was hosted by the Business Information Systems diploma program in collaboration with WITT. Fourteen enthusiastic youth between the ages of 13-17 explored computer programing and game development. The camp was designed to increase awareness of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in Saskatchewan and to encourage youth, in particular girls, in the K-12 system to consider a career in information technology.

C. Maddison, a Plan Program Play virtual camper shares, “It was fun learning all of the different components of the Gamestopper software and how they fit together.  I enjoyed the opportunity to build my own game and see it work.”

Building off of the success of Plan Program Play, WITT held a second virtual camp in July for Mechanical Engineering Coding. The coding camp was an opportunity for kids aged 11 to 14 to learn basic mechanical engineering principles and coding basics to make their own robot. “Although we’re incredibly disappointed that we’re unable to host in-person workshops and camps, hosting virtual events to engage with women and youth allows us to continue to educate and empower them on the possibility of a career in the trades and technology,” says Grimsdale.

For more information or to register for WITT programming, visit saskpolytech.ca/WITT.

Published July 2020.