Planting the seed: annual conference invites young women to explore skilled trades

Originally posted: November 15, 2019


This was no go-quietly-into-the-weekend Friday field trip. For participants of Skills Manitoba’s Young Women’s Conference (YWC), it was an immersive, hands-on exploration of skilled trade programs offered at MITT, and an invitation to explore career possibilities in fields clamouring for them.  

Today’s event, which marked a decade of partnership on YWC between MITT and Skills Manitoba, saw more than 60 Grade 9 and 10 students test their skills as auto mechanics and motosport technicians, industrial welders, industrial mechanic/millwrights, electricians, industrial electronics technicians, and carpenters. Guiding their journey was a corps of industry-based mentors—which this year included MITT alumnae Maddy Szumlak (Auto Mechanics), Cynthia Nault (Industrial Mechanic/Millwright) and Jenna Nowicki (Industrial Welding)—who answered their questions and served as inspiration to aspiring young tradeswomen to follow their example and enter programs such as heavy trades which, as of 2017, had an enrolment profile that was more than 94 per cent male.* 

“Even though they are male-dominated jobs, that doesn’t mean females can’t do them,” says Szumlak, a three-time mentor at the Young Women’s Conference, who works at Birchwood Lexus Toyota.  “Sometimes we do things better than the guys. Like, for me, I have a whole lot more patience than some of the guys I work with, which helps in situations that are time sensitive. We may have to find different ways to do things, but we can get the same stuff done.”

MITT graduates Jenna Nowicki, Maddy Szumlak, and Cynthia Nault provided advice and inspiration to future tradeswomen

According to Cary Tardi, domestic recruitment and pathway coordinator at MITT, YWC helps young women at the early stages of career consideration familiarize themselves with the diverse opportunities available in non-traditional skilled trades. It’s an important component of a larger effort by MITT in support of women that includes a dedicated webpage full of resources, the recently launched Women in Trades Entrance Scholarship, and the Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) student group.   

“There are so many post-secondary and career options today that expecting a young person to decide, in Grade 12, what their next steps will be can become overwhelming,” says Tardi. “It’s so important to give young people—especially young women—immersive opportunities like the Young Women’s Conference that get them hands-on experience in careers they might not have previously considered. We want to help them connect the dots and choose a career path they can pursue with passion; what better way to do that than by letting them try different options out?”

The Young Women’s Conference hosts events outside of Winnipeg as well—in Brandon, Thompson, Dauphin, and The Pas. Learn more.

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