St. Clair College event entices girls to consider skilled trades, science, tech and engineering careers

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Windsor Star/Sharon Hill

Ninety-three per cent of parents in the United Kingdom would not support their daughter pursuing a career in engineering.

Sarah Neville, the keynote speaker this week at the Build a Dream symposium, used what she called a shocking statistic to show some of the barriers to getting young women to consider careers in jobs that are mostly held by men. We have preconceived notions of what a police officer, a sheet metal worker or an engineer should look like. And those stereotypes and attitudes are communicated to young people by parents and educators.

“It’s really important to get the buy-in of parents at the beginning because parents have so much influence over the decisions their daughters make,” Neville said after her talk on strengthening your workforce through gender balance.

Neville, director of Open Line Communications in Toronto who specializes in communication that bridges gaps, kicked off the day-long symposium at the fourth annual Build a Dream event at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts. The event encourages young women to pursue careers in skilled trades, law enforcement, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Nour Hachem, project manager at St. Clair College’s school of skilled trades, said about 1,200 people including parents and their daughters were expected to attend the evening portion of the event that included a chance to talk with female mentors and about 50 employers.

Parents are the No. 1 influence when it comes to career choices so Hachem said it’s important to get both parents and their daughters out to the Build a Dream event. It appears to be working. She said St. Clair College went from having two female general machinist students registered in its apprenticeship program last year to 21 women this year.

There are opportunities. By 2020, about 40 per cent of new jobs are expected to be in the skilled trades and technology industries, she said.

Neville encouraged parents to examine their own bias, find out what opportunities are available in these fields and be your daughter’s champion.

For employers Neville talked about the benefits women bring to a workforce and that studies suggest that gender balance with up to 30 per cent of the leadership roles filled by women can increase profitability by at least 15 per cent.