The Young Women Exploring Trades Conference is expanding its audience and taking the show on the road.
For the first time, the conference aimed at getting young women to consider jobs in technology or the trades will be taking students out of the classroom and around Whitehorse to see businesses firsthand.
“It’s hard to be what you can’t see,” said Brenda Barnes, Executive Director of Yukon Women in Trades and Technology, the group running the conference.
“And if you’re never exposed to it and you’re never encouraged, how would you know it’s a possibility?”
This is the 15th annual conference. It used to be held over one day at Yukon College. There, Grade 8 students would get a chance to try their hand at jobs like carpentry and sheet metal work.
“There were shop classes and stuff, but because it was at the Yukon College it felt like classes,” said Heidi Loos, who completed the program in Grade 8 and is now an organizer with this year’s event.
“This year it’s completely different because we’re partnering with businesses and organizations around Whitehorse.”
Now, girls in both Grade 8 and high school can choose from 14 different businesses to visit over a day and a half from Oct. 15 to 16.
“They’re going to actually meet the owners of these companies and the employees and get information about apprenticeship programs and how they could work for them after they’re done high school,” Loos said.
They’ll get to hear from women who are working in the field and may be able to act as mentors.
According to Barnes, there are about 450 registered apprentices in Yukon now and a little over 50 of them are women.
For women, the two most popular apprenticeships are carpentry and hairdressing, she said.
This year, at ALS Global & Access Consulting, students will learn about environmental testing and get a chance to test their own water from home.
There are multiple carpentry and machining workshops planned, as well as trips to Alkan Air and Elements Esthetics. Young girls can also take apart computers at the Computers for Schools program at Raven Recycling.
Students can visit Fireweed RV Services to learn how to care for the different propane appliances. Elsewhere, caterer Egle Barnes will discuss the culinary industry.
At Total North Communications students can learn about safety techniques and get a chance to climb eight feet up a telecommunications tower.
They’ll learn about helicopters from Trans North Helicopters, the water system at the pump house and the automotive industry at Whitehorse Motors.
Carpenter Meagan Christie will be leading three carpentry sessions during the conference, all at YuKonstruct. By the end the girls will have worked together to build a board table for the Women in Trades and Technology offices, she said.
Christie started working in carpentry about a year after taking an introductory course put on by the group. She’s been involved in residential construction for about nine years now.
It’s a job she doubts would have been on her radar growing up.
“When I was that age I don’t think I really would have considered that kind of thing for me,” she said.
“But I love it.”
Christie has been involved with the conference for the last three years. She said she loves watching the young girls build self-confidence, even if they never pick up a hammer again.
“I think they all have fun doing it. There’s a lot of pride when you get to build something,” she said.
Both Loos and Barnes say there is still stigma attached to women working in many trades and tech industries.
“I think there’s still a lot of gender stereotypes and discouragement towards young women in all different aspects – in their schools, in the media, from their families,” Loos said.
“Some of the businesses we approached have even confirmed those stereotypes by saying, you know, I don’t actually think women belong on the job site. We had a guy say that to us talking about carpentry and construction.”
Barnes used to work for the Yukon Women’s Directorate where she would make presentations to high school students about gender stereotypes.
“I would hear about shop teachers telling high school girls that they shouldn’t aspire to be heavy equipment operators, because that wasn’t lady-like, and that’s in the last seven years,” she said.
Conferences like this are about connecting girls with role models to show them what can be done, Loos said.
“We really want young women to see other women doing this so they can see that yes, you can aspire to do these jobs and have these careers. If they’ve never seen it then they don’t necessarily think it is a place for them or an option.”
The deadline to sign up for the conference has been extended until Oct. 9.
For more information visit yukonwitt.org or call 667-4441.
Contact Ashley Joannou at