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John Oliver Secondary Students aims to place women on the trades career path

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Automotive instructor John Silver teaching students. Photo by Gavin Fisher.
Automotive instructor John Silver teaching students. Photo by Gavin Fisher.

A group of six Grade 10 girls crowd underneath a suspended car, watching automotive instructor John Silver demonstrate how to loosen the oil cap and do an oil change.

“Some of the boys I teach, they don’t know their left from their right,” jokes Silver, to the laughter of the girls.

Women on the trades career path

These six students were taking part in a sampler workshop at John Oliver Secondary School yesterday, aimed at placing women on the trades career path. A total of 21 students from eight high schools across Vancouver joined the event, which was organized by the Vancouver School Board.

The participating students got to try their hand at carpentry, metalwork, and automotive repair, spending 70 minutes on each trade. The students got the chance to build the frame of a wall in the carpentry workshop, and in the metalwork workshop students cut, bent, and welded metal to create a picture frame.

Martha Beach Bartel, a Grade 10 student from Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School, said the workshop was useful.

“It’s a good opportunity, if I ever want a job in the trades,” said Beach Bartel. She added that she does not let gender stereotypes deter her from doing what she enjoys.

“People are always like ‘girls wear frilly dresses and take dance’,” Beach Bartel said. “[But] I’ve always liked tech and woodworking [right] from when I was a kid.”

Need to get past these stereotypes, says organizer

Peter Orlandi, one of the organizers of the event, said the workshop was an opportunity to give young women an insight into the world of trades.

“Women are not only welcome in trades, they’re doing very well,” said Orlandi. “We need good, skilled workers and we need to get past these stereotypes.”

Wendy Gilmour, an apprenticeship teacher for the VSB, said the smaller turnout meant more individual attention for the students.

“If you’d have had a huge group you wouldn’t have been able to do as much with them,” said Gilmour. “So they get a chance to do more when they’re in a smaller group.”

Reported by Gavin Fisher

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