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‘We can do it too': Mentors real examples for young women at Wolfville skilled trades, tech event


WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

It’s Kayla Beck’s mission to show young women there is space for them within skilled trade and technology industries.

Doing so is something she works towards every day as she travels across Nova Scotia facilitating workshops with female-identifying students to show them what a future within such an industry could look like.

Beck works for the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association and was among the industry partners present at the Skilled Futures for Women in Technology event April 26 at Acadia University, where students from Grade 8 to 10 like Mariasha Mendel got experience in fields like virtual reality, boatbuilding, tidal energy and robotics.

“We’re seeing and meeting these people who are in these industries, so it shows us we can do it too,” said Mendel.

The Wolfville event was organized by the Nova Scotia division of Skills Canada, or SCNS, through a collaboration with WISEatlantic, a group supporting women in STEM-related fields.

Beck led the boatbuilding workshop which challenged students to design a mechanism to independently move a boat.

Students Chelsea Blenus, Herizon Muise and Licy Pinch engineered a rubber band attached to an axel that would propel the boat as it twisted its propeller. They said the activity and time they spent with industry mentors at the event made a future within such fields seem tangible.

“It gives you a demonstration, so we can see if we want to do it, and if it appeals to us,” said Blenus.

SCNS program manager Laura King said the event also aimed to introduce students to careers they didn’t know existed, such as a videogame designer.

She said despite the immense popularity of videogames, it’s highly probable that young students playing the game never imagine themselves on its production side.

“Suddenly they’re thinking, ‘I can code my own program,’ or, ‘I can animate,’ even though it seemed unattainable before. They start to think of what else they could do, and it gets them down the path of having more courage to try these different things,” she said. 

Beck said such events are important because they show students real people making waves in the industries. She also said meeting such mentors could’ve made a big difference to her.

“That’s why I’m involved with these programs now – this is about giving them the opportunity to see that this industry could be an option for them,” she said.

The event also included a questionnaire asking students whether they’d ever considered a career within skilled trades or technology, and whether they’d consider one now.

While around half of the students answer yes to the first question, Kings said the second receives a yes from more than 80 per cent after the day’s activities.

And while the organization cannot track data for where these students end up post-secondary, she said this increase is a promising first step.

“They’re thinking about it, and it’s on their radar, when it never was before – and that’s huge,” said King.

Sara.Ericsson@kingscountynews.ca

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