BCIT Jill of All Trades: Empowering high school students to explore careers in trades

BCIT welcomed more than 90 high school students at its inaugural Jill of All Trades event that took place on the Burnaby Campus. Jill of All Trades is a day-long event led by female mentors to inspire young women or those who identify as female to pursue careers in the skilled trades. Participating students range from grades 9 through 12 and came from 32 high schools in over 12 school districts.

The Jill of All Trades branded event was started in Ontario at Conestoga College in 2014 and it expanded across Canada this year, with BCIT being one of the hosting sites. The event was a fun-filled day of hands-on activities and learning. Students learned about shop safety before being invited to join BCIT instructors in the shops to learn about Ironworking, Piping, Sheet Metal, CNC Machinist, Security Alarm Technician, Welding, Industrial Instrumentation, Joinery, and Motorcycle Technician.

In addition to exploring diverse trades training and available career opportunities, all participating students gained hands-on trades skills in: forming sheet metal into a tool tote, installing drainage waste and venting systems, and using virtual welders and CNC machines in both joinery and machining. In the Ironworking session, led by Local 97 Ironworkers, students learned about fall protection, how to walk (virtually and physically) on beams, calculate loads, tie rebar, and saw apprentices in action on the high steel. In the Security Alarm Technician session, students learned about assembling audible continuity testers, bent conduit, and monitoring systems.  They also tested mechanical systems in Motorcycle Technician and Industrial Instrumentation/Process Control.

Guest Speaker Cassidy Mceown also delivered a keynote speech on her decision to pursue a skilled-trades career. Cassidy spent several years on History Channel’s Rust Valley Restorers and became Red Seal Certified in August 2020.

The event was rewarding and inspirational to many students. Some of their feedback included:

  •  “I may be more suited for trades than I thought.”
  •  “It’s empowering feeling competent about something you thought you wouldn’t be social accepted into.”
  • “We need more representation of women in the trades.”
  • “Math is in everything and  everywhere.”
  • “ There isn’t only one path for you.”

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As the largest trades training provider in Canada, BCIT is committed to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all trades students – current and future generations. Tamara Pongracz, Department Head, BCIT Trades Access, shared in a recent interview with Burnaby Now, “The [Jill of All Trades] 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 a sustainable workforce, and for these folks to be able to be part of how we build British Columbia.”

Interested in a trades career but not sure where to start? BCIT offers Trades Discovery to provide participants with hands-on experience in approximately 15 different trades disciplines. Learn more about BCIT Trades Discovery programs, including an option for women.


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