Despite the many programs in schools, colleges, and unions that seek to get more women to join the trades, the rates of women in trades have not changed since 2000. Guide Leader and Kootenay Area Public Relations adviser Anne Simonen was aware of these statistics, and reflecting on her own lack of exposure to such careers, organized a trades exploration camp for Pathfinders and Rangers.
The camp was held at Camp Rory — a perfect location for its size and facilities– and was attended by Pathfinders from Kelowna, Castlegar, and Nelson, and a Trex unit from Jaffray. On the camp’s first night, Dr. Marcia Braundy, one of the first women in BC’s Carpentry union, gave a talk about the challenges she faced pursuing a carpentry career, but who also gave valuable advice about being resilient and finding allies. After hearing her talk, Amelia Vernham from the Castlegar unit said she was inspired, saying: “Just because [people] don’t think we are capable doesn’t mean we can’t prove [them] wrong.”
Saturday, the Pathfinders completed hands-on projects relating to electrical, carpentry and metalsmithing trades, which were lead by mostly women tradespeople. Through the day they learned how to use the tools of each trade safely and about different career and training options. The camp had two metalsmiths,including one who is also a welder, who showed the attendees how to make a hook, an electrician who was also an engineer-in-training, who lead the attendees through a simple residential wiring exercise, a journeyman cabinetmaker, a civil engineering technologist, and a construction carpenter.
Not every attendee will pursue a trades career, but now they have met women role models in trades and technology, been empowered to look into non-traditional careers, and get practice working with common construction tools — a valuable skill regardless of any future career. Changing the story of women in trades will take more than a single Girl Guide camp, but for attendees, it might be the first step in changing their own stories.