Women at work

Week­long camp for girls in trades and tech­nol­ogy kicks off, will end with scooter race on Friday

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH LADIK

Monday morn­ing, 11 girls stand watch­ing a woman drop var­i­ous tools through a me­tal chute onto a Sty­ro­foam dummy head, first with a hard hat and then with­out it.

The screw­driver bounces off the head, but leaves a mark. The wrench sinks in sev­eral inches and sticks. There is a col­lec­tive im­pressed gasp from the girls. “He is dead,” says one, defini­tively. This safety demon­stra­tion is the first — and per­haps least ex­cit­ing — part of the week­long Girls Ex­plor­ing Trades and Tech­nol­ogy camp at Saskatchewan Polytech­nic, which kicked off on Monday. It has been run­ning for more than 25 years and has seen 3,500 girls take part.

“One of the mums who was in one of the first camps, her kid is in it this year,” Michelle Lanoie, Women in Trades and Tech­nol­ogy (WITT) co-or­di­na­tor, told the Times-Her­ald. “We’re start­ing to re­ally see that turn­around, and it’s great to see.”

The pro­gram is de­signed to in­tro­duce girls in Grades 6 through 8 to var­i­ous trades, as well as to the women who work in them. Par­tic­i­pants will work on scoot­ers through­out the week, which they get to take home with them at the end, and will race them come Friday. The in­struc­tors are also women, some­thing Lanoie said is im­por­tant when it comes to show­ing the girls ex­am­ples of real peo­ple work­ing in the in­dus­try.

“This course, it’s not just car­pen­try,” said in­struc­tor Pat Fayant, who her­self started in the WITT pro­gram more than 20 years ago. “They get to meet other tradeswomen who love their jobs.”

Fayant said she had never thought about teach­ing, that as a sin­gle mother, she just wanted to be able to work. Now, she has found be­ing an in­struc­tor in the camp a re­ward­ing thing in and of it­self.

“Hav­ing all these girls to­gether, they’re just more com­fort­able,” she said. “We’ve found that women learn best from other women.”

While it was only the very first few hours, some of the girls said they could al­ready see a difference, not hav­ing boys around.

“We’re ac­tu­ally get­ting things done,” said Emily Closs. “(Boys) in­ter­rupt ev­ery­thing.”

She said that at home, she is al­ways build­ing things with her dad, and when her mother saw the camp ad­ver­tised on Face­book, she de­cided to give it a try.

We’re ac­tu­ally get­ting things done. (Boys) in­ter­rupt ev­ery­thing. Emily Closs

Emalee Steeves said her fa­ther works for one of the com­pa­nies that is spon­sor­ing the camp and got an email about it.

“My brother is re­ally an­noy­ing,” she said, though she ad­mit­ted to bor­row­ing his Lego to build things. “It’s nice to be with girls my own age.”

Tiarra No­ble wasn’t so sure about the all-fe­male pro­gram, but said she was in­ter­ested in trades and tech­nol­ogy and wanted to get out of the house and make new friends. Lanoie said that hav­ing a camp just for girls al­lows them to get com­fort­able with each other and the ex­pe­ri­ence, with­out hav­ing boys around who may al­ready know how to do things or might make fun of them.

“We get to see them when they come in and they’re pretty meek,” she said. “And in just a few days, their whole de­meanor changes. When they leave, they’re con­fi­dent and com­pe­tent, and they’ve got their heads held high and their shoul­ders back.”

Lanoie hopes to see some of the girls who got through the camp en­roll in trades pro­grams at the polytech­nic when they get older. She said there are all kinds of schol­ar­ships and op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in the male-dom­i­nated field.

Those de­mo­graph­ics, partly be­cause of camps like this one, are slowly chang­ing. Fayant said that 20 years ago, when she started, women on job­sites and in shops had to be tough.

“It’s not so bad these days,” she said. “It’s pretty com­mon to see women work­ing in all kinds of trades.”

Her fel­low in­struc­tor and car­pen­ter Sherry Froess agreed.

“It’s so im­por­tant to get them young,” she said. “It shows them that women can do this.”

SARAH LADIK/TIMES-HER­ALD

From left, Emily Closs, Callen Ny­hof, Som­mer Am­brose, Grace Lea­man, Emma Doucette, Emalee Steeves, and Macken­zie Meas­ner show off what hap­pens to a dummy head when a wrench falls in it with­out a hard hat.

SARAH LADIK/TIMES-HER­ALD

In­struc­tors Pat Fayant (left) and Sherry Froess get ready to teach the girls some car­pen­try in the shop at Saskatchewan Polytech­nic on Monday.

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