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Nearly 90 high school students from the London area took part on Thursday


Posted: October 08, 2023

High school students Erin Cole, 16, and Wynter Ainge-Twitchell, 15, were at the Jill of All Trades event at Fanshawe College to find out more about the trades they’re interested in. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

High school students from across the London region got first-hand experience in the skilled trades Thursday at Fanshawe College’s first-ever Jill of All Trades event, aiming to encourage females to seek careers in traditionally male-denominated industries. 

About 90 females from grades 9 through 12 explored their interest in electrical, carpentry, plumbing and automotive at Fanshawe’s main campus.

While only seven per cent of skilled trades workers in the country are female according to
Statistics Canada, Erin Cole, 16, said it just motivates her to work harder.

“I have nothing against the fact that it’s a male-dominated workspace,” she said, noting she’s the first female at her workplace to work in the lumberyard. “Just because I’m a female doesn’t mean I can’t match the workload.”

High school students at Fanshawe College work on electrical training boards to build circuits typically seen on a vehicle. This was just one of the workshops at the Jill of All Trades event Thursday. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

Cole’s interest in coming to the event was to learn what options are available for electricians, one of the careers she’s hoping to eventually land an apprenticeship for, the other being carpentry.

“You have to find opportunities to learn about those things because they’re not always just given to you,” Cole said.

Wynter Ainge-Twitchell, 15, is looking to pursue a career as a mechanic, though she’s also interested in carpentry and electrical work because of how similar they are to solving puzzles.

“Cars are really cool, and I’ve always liked working on engines and hands-on stuff, so it’s better than a nine to five office job.”

Skilled trades workshops for girls becoming more common

Fanshawe College is the sixth college in Canada to host the Jill of All Trades event — along with Centennial College, Cambrian College, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Conestoga College which first launched the event in 2014.

“It’s now 2023, and this is our first event like this. London needs it, southwestern Ontario needs it. So we’re excited,” said Steve Patterson, Fanshawe’s dean of the faculty of science, trades and technology.

There are a number of bursaries and scholarships available for women who are looking to get into the trades through the college’s apprenticeship programs, Patterson said. 

“A lot of them aren’t used because people aren’t aware of them, or they don’t believe they’re for them. But they exist in most colleges across Ontario, and I would encourage anybody to look them up,” he said. 

Dave Vollmer is an instructor is the professor and coordinator for the automotive service technician program and has over 30 years of experience in the industry. He says events like this will help encourage even more girls to get into the trades, industries that are sorely hurting for people. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

Despite skilled trades being a male-dominated world, instructors are seeing more female students in their programs than ever before.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to teach lots of women in the trade, and I have them coming through my classes all the time,” said David Vollmer, coordinator for Fanshawe’s automotive service technician program.

The province said there are
approximately 17,000 job vacancies in London with the skilled trades being singled out as one
in high demand. The Ontario government has offered thousands of dollars worth of 
incentives for apprentices and
workplaces. Vollmer is hopeful that growing interest among young women will help fill those positions.

“I want to retire at some point and I still want to have somebody fix my car. I don’t know if I could retire properly if I have to be my own mechanic. But I hope that they’re there to fill that void for all trades.” 

The Jill of All Trades program is expecting to expand to 45 institutions across both Canada and the U.S. by 2026.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike spent his early life in Northern Ontario and Quebec before making London his home. He is a graduate of Fanshawe’s Broadcast Journalism program and lives in the city with his family and three cats.

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