FREDERICTON (GNB) – Changes to a program that encourages girls to explore careers in trades and technology is credited for almost tripling the number of girls participating compared to previous years.

The Women’s Equality Branch hosted Trades and Technology Career Exploration for Girls events in Fredericton, Edmundston and Saint John during the 2018-19 school year. The events attracted 660 students.

“Something incredible happens when we, as a society, encourage and empower women and girls to achieve their full potential,” said Service New Brunswick Minister Sherry Wilson, who is also the minister responsible for women’s equality. “Events like these provide an important opportunity to encourage young women to explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

Designed to introduce young women in high school to careers in the skilled trades and technology sector, the events gave students an opportunity to learn more by hearing directly from women from their community working in these trades. They provided students with advice, guidance and inspiration by sharing their experiences.

In years past, the Women’s Equality Branch held four to six evening events around the province, with 15 to 40 students in attendance at each event.

The new format, developed in partnership with school districts, had the events take place during school hours with bus transportation available. As a result, 120 students attended in Fredericton, 375 students attended in Edmundston and 165 students attended in Saint John.

Mentors from organizations including NAV Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, New Brunswick Community College, Le Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, Université de Moncton – Campus Edmundston, NB Tap, Apprenticeship NB, Canadian Border Service, IBM, CANB Moncton Northeast, Chaleur Sawmill, Aerospace and Defence Association, and Group Savoie took part in the events this year.

“Girls are our future workforce,” said MAP Strategic Workforce Services director Hélène Savoie-Louis. “Trades and Technology Career Exploration for Girls allows young girls to explore and learn about non-traditional careers, be it in trades, technology or services, with actual female professionals in these fields in a fun, comfortable learning environment. Girls are an immense talent pool that have not been widely exposed to these wonderful career opportunities in our province. New Boots is proud to support this wonderful event.”

The events were organized by a committee made up of representatives from the Women's Equality Branch, Armour Transport, Irving Oil, J.D. Irving Ltd., Skills Canada New Brunswick, New Boots, and NB Power.

“Progress has been made but women are still underrepresented in these fields,” said Wilson. “Women only make up about four per cent of the workforce in skilled trades in New Brunswick. With many skilled trade workers set to retire in the next 10 years, it is important that we continue looking for ways to encourage women to enter these fields.”