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Giving girls a chance to try out the skilled trades

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Hundreds of high school students visited Conestoga College’s Cambridge campus on Wednesday for ‘Jill of all Trades,’ a unique event that aims to inspire the next generation of female trades workers.

Skills ranging from welding to carpentry were on display for the nearly 300 young attendees.

Director Rosie Hessian said there’s a reason the event has grown and become more popular over the last decade.

“There are hands-on experiences in the shops,” she explained. “They get in there, they are doing something, making something, and they are so proud of that.”

“It’s really exciting to see all the opportunities that there are for women out there,” Marlowe, a Grade 11 student, said.

Students Marlowe, Bella and Ciara (left to right) at the Jill of All Trades event at Conestoga College on May 29, 2024. (Ashley Bacon/CTV Kitchener)

“I think I was more into the mechanics but I really like how it’s empowering women on all the trades,” added Ciara, another Grade 11 student.

“They told us about the different opportunities we could get and that there’s lots of benefits of working in trades,” Grade 12 student Bella said.

Hannah Passila made her second appearance at ‘Jill of all Trades,’ just one day before she moves to Kapuskasing to begin a plumbing apprenticeship.

She was hoping to inspire other young girls.

“I think the mentors are great, we have learned a lot from them and hopefully I can teach somebody today as well,” Passila said.

Grade 12 student Hannah Passila who will soon be starting her plumbing apprenticeship in Kapuskasing, Ont. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)

Back in 2014, 120 girls attended the inaugural event. Now, ‘Jill of all Trades’ hosts 18 different programs across the continent every year.

Organizers say this is their biggest year yet.

Rosie Hessian, Jill of all Trades director on May 29, 2024. (Ashley Bacon/CTV Kitchener)

Brandi Ferenc, a HVAC mechanic, has been participating in the event since it started in 2014.

She said, when she began her career 20 years ago, she couldn’t even find work clothes that fit her properly. Now she’s seeing a sector shift to accommodate and nurture female workers.

“I go to many women in skilled trades events but nothing like this,” Ferenc said.“To be able to put the tools in their hands and see them come in a little apprehensive, maybe [thinking] I don’t want to do that, and then just watch how empowered they get.”

Brandi Ferenc, an HVAC Mechanic, with a student participant at Jill of Trades. (Ashley Bacon/CTV Kitchener)

The hope is that it sparks inspiration for a whole next generation.

“You get dirty, you have fun and never work a job where you’re not having fun,” Passila said.

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