Trade Student Spotlight – First of Their Kind: Female Carpentry Students

by Heidi Hackman & Colleen McNamee, District Career Coordinators, SD 63 | photo by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

The timing just seemed right. It was a good fit and the 32 young women from the Saanich School District who attended the Camosun College Women in Trades and Technology Day could not have agreed more. This event, put on by the South Island Partnership and Camosun Women in Trades and Tech, had 160 students rotate through four activities, and the entire program was very well received by all. Not only was it one of the first field trips in two years, but everyone left feeling motivated and inspired for their own future. From the engaging hands-on activities and the encouragement from current female students in the program, our students were impressed. The female instructors and department heads were excellent. This was truly a program to highlight not only for these young women and their future potentials, but for all women who have shown an interest in the trades and those who may follow.

Starting with our district career programs, we have seen an increase in the number of female students applying for and participating in our programs. Our hairstyling program always fills up, but getting females into more male-dominated trades has been tricky. The TASK (Trades Awareness Skills and Knowledge) Program has seen a 20% increase in female participation over the last two years. The district Tex (Trades Exploration) Program had three female students this year, the first ever. Our STAC (Skills Training Apprenticeship Carpentry) Program had its first two female students this year! Anika and Riza have formed a fast friendship and are very supportive of each other.

They were both nervous about signing up for the program, but are so glad that they did. Anika said: “one of the great things about this program is that everyone is at the same level. It isn’t like signing up to do school soccer when you haven’t played before and others have been playing for 10 years.” Well said Anika! Riza was “worried about being belittled” in the class and on the jobsite but that has not been her experience. She is now working with TCF Contracting in Sidney building a condominium. Anika is working with Harbour Oak homes on a single family home.

They both agree their grandparents are their biggest cheerleaders and are so proud of their granddaughters taking on this typical male-dominated trade. Anika’s mom is also a captain with BC Ferries so was very supportive of her to try this program. Both Riza and Anika like seeing their hard work create something that is useful to others, making their career choices helpful on many levels.

Riza has advice to other girls who are interested in taking the program: “don’t overthink it and don’t let the stereotypes hold you back.” Whether they realize it or not, Riza and Anika have just made it easier for other girls to do this program. They say you can’t be what you don’t see and we are so proud to “see” them become so successful. We want everyone to see how strong and productive these two are. Congratulations to all our girls.

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