Female students prove gender not a factor at conference

9 years ago

Female students

prove gender not a factor at conference

By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Careers in welding, carpentry and heavy equipment operation aren’t just for guys anymore.

Staff photo/Scott Mitchell Johnson

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     DESTINY CYR, right, practices her airbrushing technique during an auto collision repair workshop that was part of the 12th annual Totally Trades conference held April 29 at NMCC. Looking on are, from left: Sabrina Brewer and Gabrielle Ricker. The girls are all eighth-graders at Central Aroostook Junior-Senior High School. The conference is sponsored by Women, Work and Community.

    That was the message at the 12th annual Totally Trades conference held April 29 on the NMCC campus. Sponsored by Women, Work, and Community, a statewide organization committed to helping Maine people succeed in their workplace, business, and community, the hands-on, day-long event is designed to encourage girls to consider careers in fields traditionally dominated by men.
    “Totally Trades offers workshop experiences in non-traditional careers for females — careers typically dominated by males — to girls throughout Aroostook County,” said Suzanne Senechal-Jandreau, conference planner and regional manager of the central Aroostook office of Women, Work and Community. “Totally Trades provides an opportunity for female students to explore careers they may have not considered for themselves. We want them to open their thinking and remove the potential barrier of gender when considering careers for the future.”
    More than 150 girls representing 17 schools in Aroostook County participated in the conference.
    “This is our biggest year so far, so I think the interest is still there,” said Senechal-Jandreau.
    This was Lucie Simpson’s fourth year attending the Totally Trades conference.
    “I was chosen by my tech ed teacher in eighth grade to come and experience this, and I enjoyed it so much I’ve been coming back every year,” said Simpson, a junior at Presque Isle High School. “I love that it’s different; you get to experience something new each time. I’ve never attended the same workshop twice. So far they’ve all been excellent.”
    Simpson said that despite her intention to become a midwife, she enjoyed learning about other careers.
    “I definitely want to work with the premature babies,” she said. “I would encourage girls to come to the conference because it’s a great experience. You get to learn about jobs that are so-called ‘men jobs,’ but women can do them just as well. You get to meet a lot of new people and the instructors are really great, too. It shows you there’s a lot more out there than what you would typically think of.”
    Drew Lajoie, a senior at Caribou High School, is in the criminal justice class at the Caribou High School Tech Center, and was asked if she would be interested in “coming to look at other trades that aren’t typically considered female careers.”
    “This is my first year,” she said. “I wish I had come sooner.”
    Lajoie will be attending NMCC in the fall where she will study business administration. She plans to eventually earn a criminal justice degree, as well.
    She attended the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workshop in the morning.
    “We made circuit boards,” said Lajoie. “In the afternoon I’ll be doing the emergency medical technician workshop. I’m trying things that I hadn’t really thought of before. It’s been really fun. I would encourage girls to attend the conference because it’s good to see that careers aren’t always male dominated. Women have the opportunity to go into any career if they’re interested, and being a female shouldn’t stop you from doing it.”
    Alyssa Banville attended Totally Trades for the first time, as well.
    “A lot of these careers I’m interested in, and it’s a great opportunity to come here to NMCC,” said Banville, an eighth-grader at Wisdom Middle-High School in St. Agatha. “There have been other students who went before and they told me how fun it was. This has been a great experience because not a lot of women do these jobs, so it’s great to see what it’s like.
    “You don’t see a lot of girls operating heavy machinery, but it’s cool that some do it and we can learn more about it,” she said. “It’s a great chance to try jobs that women don’t usually do.”
    Banville attended the sheet metal fabrication and heavy equipment operation workshops.
    “We got to choose what we wanted to carve out of sheet metal. I chose a Chevy symbol,” she said.
    At the moment, Banville said she wants to become a physical therapist.
    “My dad’s a logger, and I work with him sometimes and it’s really fun, so I thought the Totally Trades conference would be cool,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of female loggers either.”
    Pam Buck, trade and technical department chair at NMCC, feels the program is very worthwhile.
    “It’s great to get young women to start thinking about careers that maybe they had never even thought of before … diesel hydraulics, auto collision repair, welding, metal fabrication … careers that are not really initially thought of as possibilities,” she said. “We’ve always had women in the trade and technical programs; this year it seems like we have quite a few women. We have 12 programs in our department, and this year there are women in 10 of them. In two of those, two women were selected as outstanding students in their respective programs.
    “Totally Trades helps open girls’ eyes to other opportunities, and Women, Work, and Community has done a lot of great things to bring students here,” said Buck, who is the first female department chair in the trade and technical department. “It’s just great to not think about jobs and genders in the same context.”
    Assisting with the auto collision repair workshop was Cassandra Lunney, of Presque Isle, a senior in the NMCC program who also attended Totally Trades as a high-schooler.
    “It means a lot to me to be able to help today because I definitely enjoyed my experience. I’m very hands-on, and it gave me a variety of different things that I might want to do. Giving the girls the chance and opportunity to see those things is important,” she said.
    “I want to give them as much information as they want and as much information as they need,” said Lunney, “because that’s what I wanted from the program and that’s what I got when I came.”
    Lunney knows firsthand what it’s like being in a field typically dominated by men.
    “I am one of two females in the auto collision program,” she said. “I wasn’t really nervous being a female in the class; I was just more nervous about it being a new environment and not knowing what to do. The guys in here are really cool and we’re all friends.”
    After graduating from NMCC May 16, Lunney will begin working at Glidden Auto Body in Brewer.
    Funding for Totally Trades is made possible through monies and in-kind services provided by the Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Department of Education/CTE, K-PEL Industrial Services, Northern Maine Development Commission/APP/LEAD, the Maine Community Foundation – Cynthia McMullen Fund for Women, Cianbro, McCain Foods USA, Cassidy Orthodontics, Soderberg Construction Company, and S.W. Collins Co., with in-kind support from Rathbun Lumber and NMCC.
    Senechal-Jandreau said should the funding be available again next year, the 13th annual Totally Trades conference will be held.