Learning the tools of the trades

Cassandra Galbraith discovered her interest in the trades after a comment from a boy she used to date.

Cassandra Galbraith discovered her interest in the trades after a comment from a boy she used to date.

“(He) told me that I couldn’t help change the oil on my truck because I was a woman.”

That comment “fuelled my fire” to become a mechanic, the 23-year-old said. When the mechanics program at Yukon College wasn’t offered, she went into carpentry and has never looked back.

“So I chose carpentry, ended up loving it, and I show them boys up.”

Galbraith is now in her third year of the carpentry apprenticeship program. She is also one of the co-organizers of this year’s Young Women Exploring Trades Conference.

For the 16th year in a row, girls from Grade 8 through high school will get a chance to learn about employment opportunities in the trades by travelling to businesses around Whitehorse for two days on Oct. 20 and 21.

“When they go to local businesses they can see what are the skilled trades involved in those businesses and they can make some informed choices about their schooling,” said Brenda Barnes, the executive director of Yukon Women in Trades and Technology.

Barnes and Galbraith have started visiting Whitehorse schools to pitch the event. It is also open to students in the communities and anyone who is home-schooled.

The event is free and there is a transportation reimbursement, plus rooms at the Westmark for people coming in from out of town, Barnes said.

The conference used to be run out of classrooms at Yukon College. This is the second year students will get a chance to visit worksites.

About 15 businesses and organizations are participating. Girls will pick four to visit over the two days.

For instance, they could go to a class run by Skills Canada focusing on small engine repair. Students will be taking apart chainsaws and putting them back together.

Or they could visit Computers For Schools and reassemble laptops and computers.

Students at True North Respiratory will learn about respiratory therapy and the equipment that helps people breathe.

A session at Pelly Construction will focus on trades in the mining sector.

A visit to Alkan Air means learning about being a commercial pilot.

Many of the businesses involved are either run by women or have a high number of female employees, Barnes said.

“(The students) will see a lot of women who will be leading the sessions,” she said. “We want them to see women in positions of leadership.”

There are no specific statistics on how many women are involved in trades in the Yukon, but the apprenticeship branch of the education department keeps track of people who are working through apprenticeships.

As of Aug. 31, 2016 there were 61 females involved in apprenticeship programs in Yukon out of a total of 455 apprentices.

The two most popular trades for women are carpentry and hairstyling, Barnes said.

Galbraith will be running a carpentry program out of YuKonstruct.

Students will be building a coffee table for the Women in Trades and Technology offices.

Galbraith said she wants to make sure the classes are fun and interactive.

The idea is for the girls to come away with a basic understanding, to be able to look at a project and realize “oh that’s what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” she said.

For Barnes, the events are about showing young women all the opportunities that are available to them.

“Mission accomplished is when the girl from Carmacks comes up to you with tears in her eyes and wraps herself around you and says ‘I never knew any of this was possible. Nobody ever told me that any of these jobs existed and nobody ever told me that I could do it.’”

More information about how to register for the conference can be found online at yukonwitt.org.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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