To help inform young women in high school about rewarding careers in the skilled trades and technologies, Centennial College hosted an eye-opening experience at the Jill of All Trades event on October 24. The full day of activities drew almost 150 students from school boards across the GTA, including Toronto, Durham and Dufferin-Peel.
Jill of All Trades provides a safe and engaging learning environment where female mentors, faculty and students engage in trades workshops. Participants rotated through different activities in the labs of Ashtonbee Campus, home to the college’s School of Transportation, which gave them an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and try their hand at various skilled trades.
“Jill of All Trades is an important opportunity to inspire young women about the possibility of trades as a career path they can take,” said Michelle Solomon, Centennial’s Outreach Coordinator, Women in Non-Traditional Careers. “Trying out the skilled trades excites and empowers students to explore the options that are available in industries like construction and transportation.”
The School of Transportation’s auto body workshop organized activities that saw students using a plasma cutter to carve designs into pieces of sheet metal, while the heavy-duty equipment workshop had participants installing four-foot-tall tires on a Caterpillar Loader construction vehicle.
Students also got to see demonstrations and talk to representatives from numerous skilled-trades employers, including Enbridge, Wajax, EllisDon, Bombardier, Toromont Caterpillar, Canadian Tire and many more. Major sponsors of the Jill of All Trades initiative include construction materials manufacturer Owens Corning and automotive supplier Magna International.
“Through first-hand experience, students learn just how rewarding the skilled trades can be,” said Alan McClelland, Dean of the School of Transportation. “Centennial College operates one of the largest transportation technology schools in Canada, so it’s a natural site for a skilled-trades orientation like Jill of All Trades.”
Two leading women in the trades were invited to deliver some inspiring words to the college’s young guests, including Mandy Rennehan, CEO and founder of retail maintenance and reconstruction company Freshco.ca and host, contractor and designer on HGTV’s Trading Up. Centennial graduate Emily Chung also spoke about her experience as owner and operator of AutoNiche, an automotive service centre in Markham, Ontario.
The event was attended by several Ontario government representatives, whose goal it is to see more young women enter the trades to offset the loss of some 700,000 skilled-trades workers who are beginning to retire. Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities, and Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity, addressed the attendees with some powerful messages. Also on hand were Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education; Vijay Thanigasalam, MPP for Scarborough-Rouge Park; and David Smith, MPP for Scarborough Centre and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.
This is Centennial’s second year hosting Jill of All Trades, which was founded by Conestoga College and has been running since 2014. The initiative continues to find new partners to deliver similar events across Canada and North America.