University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, Hosts Event to Encourage Girls to Enter the Trades

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150 female grade 10 students from across Eastern Ontario traveled to the historic campus for a hands-on introduction to three skilled trades.

Women often make superior welders because of their excellent hand/eye coordination.

During the week of November 18 to 22, 2013, the University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, hosted a series of workshops designed to encourage female high school students to consider a career in the skilled trades.

Each day of the week, school buses converged on the historic campus carrying grade 10 girls interested in learning about “Living the Skilled Life” in the trades. A total of 150 students from 30 Eastern Ontario high schools took part in the workshops, organized by the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Programs of both the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

Each day provided a new group of grade 10 girls with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in three skilled trades: horticulture, welding, and diesel mechanic, with instruction provided by senior lecturers from Kemptville Campus.

The workshops were designed to address the shortage of skilled tradespeople in Ontario. Alex MacDougall, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship (OYAP) Facilitator for the UCDSB, explained that the demand for skilled tradespeople is on the rise as the baby boom generation retires: “By the year 2020, Canada will be short one million skilled tradespeople, and in Ontario alone, 26 percent of the skilled workers will be retiring over the next 10 years.”

MacDougall and Dan Lortie, his OYAP counterpart with the CDSBEO, were excited about the opportunity to provide female students with hands-on experience in the trades. “More boys than girls choose a career in the trades,” Lortie commented, “ …and we’re hoping to even that up this week!”

Guest Speaker Elizabeth Woods
At the start of each workshop the girls were introduced to Elizabeth Woods, who talked about her experience as a woman working in the trades. Woods enrolled in the Kemptville Campus Welder Pre-Apprenticeship program with absolutely no experience in the trades. She was working as a security guard at the Campus when she heard about the program and decided to give it a try. She “immediately fell in love with welding and found the training in the program to be challenging, thorough and extensive.” So much so that when she applied for an eight-week work placement at Dymech Engineering in Greely, Ontario, the company hired her full-time. “The program was that good!” she enthused.

Woods has worked for Dymech for four years, gaining experience using a wide range of welding processes. The firm has encouraged and supported her while she completed the Welder Apprenticeship program at Kemptville Campus and she is currently working on completing the requirements to write her Red Seal Certification.

Woods took questions from the students, confirming that there are lots of opportunities for women in welding, and that her experience as a woman in a previously male-dominated profession has been very positive: “Once they saw what I could do and that I could pull my own weight, they stopped treating me like a ‘girl’. We all want to see each other succeed.”

Horticulturist Bill Langenberg began his session in the classroom, telling the students how he uses horticulture “to help people feel better about themselves.” He discussed the many careers available in the landscape horticulture industry, including arborist, horticultural technician, landscape designer, and parks and recreation technician.

After a tour of the Campus’ greenhouse, the students each had the chance to get their hands in the soil, planting an English Ivy to take back to their classrooms. They signed plant ‘adoption’ certificates, agreeing to take care of the plants and inform their classmates about the benefits of studying with plants nearby: a recent Australian study, Langenberg explained, found that student marks for math, science and reading increased by 10 to 14 percent when their tests were written in classrooms that contained air purifying plants.

Norm Burns, Kemptville Campus’ Senior Lecturer, Welding Programs, was the instructor for the welding rotation. He stated that 75 to 80 percent of the introductory level welding students at Kemptville Campus are hired straight out of the program. Welding offers many different career options, from the aerospace and automotive industries to petrochemicals, pipelines, power generation, and mining, forestry and agriculture.

Burns introduced the students to Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding. After some one-on-one instruction he gave each a real-world project to complete: an instruction sheet containing a bill of materials and the dimensions of the various pieces to be welded together.

Diesel Mechanic
Andy Sleeth, Senior College Professor in Power and Equipment programs, provided the instruction for the diesel mechanic component of the workshop. Kemptville Campus offers a Diesel Equipment Mechanic Certificate and Diesel Equipment Technician Apprenticeships, preparing students for careers in diagnosing and repairing equipment on the farm and in the construction, highway truck and heavy-duty equipment industries.

After a demonstration of the importance of wearing safety boots, Sleeth encouraged the students to explore the Campus’ main power and equipment shop, followed by the engine lab, which houses a variety of diesel engines, and then the electrical lab, where they could evaluate cause and effect among various electrical systems.

Student Feedback
Throughout the workshops, the girls who participated were exposed to discussions about the value of a career in the trades, the many options available to women, and the skills that female tradespeople bring to the table – for example, they learned that women often make superior welders because of their excellent hand/eye coordination.

Feedback from the students has been very positive. “I was glad to be selected to participate because it was something new I could try, and I got to see future possibilities,” said a student from Seaway District High School in Iroquois, Ontario.

All of the students who provided feedback enjoyed the hands-on learning about each of the skilled trades, with a definite preference for welding. “Welding seemed to be the most interesting to me because it was something I’ve never done before and I really enjoyed welding things together,” commented a student from Gananoque Secondary School.

The vast majority of the participants indicated that they would be interested in further learning related to the trades – a measure of the success of the event.

One of the teachers who accompanied students to “Living the Skilled Life” was Francys Harrison of St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Cornwall, Ontario. A certified General Machinist herself, Harrison teaches Grade 10 Construction Technology. She brought four members of that class to the workshop. “It was a great experience for the girls,” she said. “The activities were very well done and informative – the whole day was well worth the trip to Kemptville.”

The Campus was pleased to host the “Living the Skilled Life” workshops. Campus Director, Dr. Claude Naud, commented that, “The University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, is particularly proud of its commitment and contribution to skilled training in Eastern Ontario. This event gave us an opportunity to showcase all the potential a career in the trades has to offer.”

For more than 95 years, Kemptville Campus has delivered life-changing learning opportunities at the undergraduate, diploma, certificate, and continuing education levels. We are proud to offer a wide range of applied research and instructional programs addressing the science and business of agriculture, equine, food and related skilled trades. As part of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College, Kemptville Campus carries on a long tradition of innovative and high quality life science education. Located some 30 minutes south of Ottawa, Kemptville Campus offers students a friendly, active, and well-rounded campus life with all the amenities and activities normally found on a much larger campus.

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