BCIT Jill of All Trades opens a world of opportunities

Only five per cent of skilled trades workers across the country are women, according to Statistics Canada. In efforts to inspire more young women to pursue a career in skilled trades, BCIT welcomed more than 80 high school students from 10 school districts across British Columbia for a day of empowerment and excitement at the Jill of All Trades event on the Burnaby Campus.

BCIT Jill of All Trades was a day-long event that allows students to experience a variety of skilled trades, while immersing them with tradeswomen role models, mentors, and resources to support their career exploration journey. Participating students were in grades 9 through 12 and came from 37 high schools in Agassiz, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Hope, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Surrey, and Vancouver.

Elder Patricia Issac opened the event with a welcome. Students then watched a video that tells the inspirational story of Blue Collar CEO Mandy Rennehan’s successful career in trades and received her words of candid, humorous, and heartfelt advice.

After learning about shop safety, students headed into various shops with BCIT faculty to learn and try-out nine different trades including: Auto Body Repair and Refinishing Technician, Cabinetmaking (Joinery), Ironworking, Machinery, Motorcycle Technician, Digital Communications and Wireless Technologies, Power Engineering, Sheet Metal, and Welding. The day wraps up with an empowering tradeswoman panel discussion featuring.

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.

“Jill of All Trades presents opportunities that weren’t presented when I was in high school,” explains Tamara Pongracz, Department Head, BCIT Trades Access. “All participants were chosen by their parents or career counsellors to join us at BCIT, so it shows how societies have evolved to encourage women in skilled trades because there are so many opportunities.”

BCIT Machinist alumna and Instructor Chelsea Barron shares similar sentiments. “What inspired me to get into skilled trades were the number of opportunities out there,” she adds. “My brother and dad were both skilled tradespeople, and my mom was a career counsellor with ACCESS for a long time.”

WATCH: On Global Morning News, Tamara Pongracz and Chelsea Barron discuss the importance of opening up trades as a career option for women.

The importance of women mentoring women

Despite the vast opportunities available for women in trades, Chelsea also recognized the importance of support for women in trades.

“It is intimidating being the only woman on a worksite so it’s important that we have events like Jill of All Trades,” shares Chelsea. “When young women see front facing women in leadership roles, such as instructors, it encourages the ‘see it, you can be it’ notion to increase enrolment and retention for women in trades.”

She adds, “We see things from a different lens, and when there are few of us on a worksite, it’s important that we have this sisterhood.”

“Being together and knowing you’re not alone makes going to work a lot easier.”

Chelsea also emphasized the value of resources from organizations and events that support women in trades.

“It’s important we have organizations like the BC Centre for Women in the Trades, and initiatives at BCIT that help creative an inclusive workforce for women and identifying-women to feel unity.”

Diversity in the workforce strengthens innovation and growth. By encouraging more young women to pursue careers in trades, it not only empowers women to thrive in a male-dominated field but also supports in building a resilient and inclusive workforce to meet the demands of the industry.

While the terms “women” and “girls” were used in the BCIT Jill of All Trades event, all participants and mentors who identify as women, girls, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, two-spirit, and gender questioning were welcome.

As Mike McKoryk, Department Head, BCIT Steel Trades, says, “There’s a place for everyone in the trades.”

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A community of support for women in trades

Special thanks to all participants, high school counsellors and teachers, BCIT trades alumni, faculty, and students from the Schools of Construction and the Environment;  Energy; and Transportation, as well as numerous industry sponsors who supported in the success of this year’s Jill of All Trades event at BCIT, including:

  • North America sponsors: Enbridge, Freshco, Owens Corning, and Magna
  • National sponsors: Cooper, EllisDon, Home Depot, Mattamy Homes, and RBC
  • Local event sponsors: BCIT Trades Access, Grosvenor, Keen Utility, and Wajax

WATCH: Global News’ coverage of the BCIT Jill of All Trades event.

Discover a trades that is for you

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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