Annual conference immerses young women in potential careers in trades, tech

Originally posted: November 19, 2018

The opening scene of welcome messages, followed by morning small talk over hot chocolate and muffins, quickly morphed into a high stakes game of building towers out of straws. And with that, Skills Manitoba’s annual Young Women’s Conference, held recently at MITT hit its stride.

 Each year, MITT partners with Skills Manitoba to bring more than 60 young women from across Winnipeg and surrounding areas to its campuses to learn about careers in technology and trades. Led by mentors, including a trio of MITT alumna, participants gathered into groups and set out on a quest to gather knowledge, testing their hands-on skills at everything from auto mechanics to welding, carpentry to network technology, security to software development.

They changed tires, cut metal, built benches, and retooled websites. All without hesitation or fear. The MITT instructors and current MITT students on hand needed only to ensure that all safety guides were followed as participants tackled each challenge.  

 Following the classroom rotations, students returned for a rapid-fire Q and A session with their mentors, asking great questions including: “What’s it really like on the job?” “Who were your mentors?” and “What does your typical work day look like?”

Maddy Szumlak, mentor and event keynote, is an Auto Mechanics grad currently working at Birchwood Lexus/Toyota as a detailer. Her advice to participants was clear: “Don’t be afraid do go into a male dominated profession. Just because you are female doesn’t mean you can’t do the same things. And sometimes it even surprises people what you're capable of.” She credited MITT staff for keeping her motivated and involved throughout her educational journey, “Staff were wonderful and always willing to help. If you need resume, job help, Celia Vielfaure is wonderful. Dave Claydon, my instructor was great. And Marnie Groeneveld was a big help to me and got me involved with this conference.”

Fellow mentor Renee Yetman, who graduated from Carpentry and is an apprentice carpenter working on the Keeyask Hydro Dam project, spoke about the value of the apprenticeship path as a means of achieving her current and long-term goals. “The more hours I work, the more experience and knowledge I gain to become a Red Seal carpenter, own my own company, or become a skilled trades instructor one day.”

Yetman also echoed Szumlak’s sentiments about the support she received at MITT. “There were instructors, colleagues, and student advisors who encouraged me and told me that I was heading in the right direction.”

Lori Kohinski, an Industrial Mechanic/Millwright graduate, who also works at Manitoba Hydro as a mechanical operating technician, challenged conference participants to change the little voice of doubt in their heads into one of confidence.
“Don’t tell yourself you can’t. I think the biggest reason why we (females) don’t take that chance and try something new is because of that little voice in our heads. The biggest challenge you will ever face is that voice. Change what it’s saying to you. Start telling yourself you can and you will! Believe in yourself!” 

From left: MITT alumna Maddy Szumlak, Lori Kohinski, and Renee Yetman offered their insights and 
experiences to the next
generation of women in trades at the recent Young Women's Conference at MITT

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