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BCIT to host 'Jill of All Trades' event for secondary school students

Students from grades 9 to 12 will attend event held in BCIT aimed at recruiting women to trades.
Women in Trades: Sheet Metal worker

More than 90 high school students will get a first-hand look at a potential career path as a "Jill of All Trades" under the mentorship of industry experts at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, the "Jill of All Trades" annual event will kickoff at BCIT, where female students across Lower Mainland will be in attendance at BCIT for a day-long event of workshops, discussions and practical, in-the-shop sessions.

The annual trades event has traditionally taken place in southern Ontario's Conestoga College since its inception in 2017. This year, for the first time, the event has expanded countrywide, with BCIT as one of the hosts. 

Last week, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) hosted an event in Alberta. In B.C., BCIT was chosen as one of the host schools along with Okanagan college.

The day-long event will be led by women in several trade disciplines including ironworking, sheet metal, industrial instrumentation and motorcycle technology among others. The goal is to provide an opportunity to test-drive a variety of trades, hands on in the shop, according to Tamara Pongracz, who is spearheading the Trades Access program and the "Jill of All Trades" event with Alyssa Deville.

"We've extended an invitation to Lower Mainland high schools to gather participants, and we have been overwhelmed by the response," Pongracz said. "We've actually had to turn folks away because we anticipate 90 participants and they're coming from as far as Hope to West Vancouver."

She said the event is "a chance [for participants] to see it so they can be it," according to Pongracz's motto. 

Students will get to build projects in the shop under the direction of BCIT faculty and industry professionals. Cassidy McEwan from Rust Valley Restores will give the keynote speech on her decision to pursue a skilled-trades career. 

Pongracz said that the event comes at a time when there's a severe skills shortage across the nation in all occupations. And "it's paramount that we provide these opportunities for for a sustainable workforce, and for these folks to be able to be part of how we build British Columbia."

Trades is an untapped career option for many, especially women, and it is because of that gender imbalance in trades that the event was created. "Earlier in the year we held a similar session for Indigenous youth from the Lower Mainland, so what I'm trying to do is change the culture of the industries that we serve, and that's by including groups that may have felt excluded," she said. 

Pongracz hopes that students from Grade 9 to 12 will keep their minds open to career in skilled trades. which can offer independence, confidence, and a paycheck that pays a living wage.

For more information about the event and the day's agenda, visit BCIT website.