Published on April 4th, 2012
Women Energize Our World
Where are the women? This was the question asked some twenty years ago when Newfoundland and Labrador was having its first oil boom back in the Hibernia days. At that time, in the early 1990s, less than 2 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador women were employed in the natural resource sector in nontraditional trades and technology roles.
Here we are in 2011, twenty years later, and women are still very much under-represented at approximately 5 per cent of workers in non-traditional trades and technology roles in the province. These numbers are still alarmingly low, as 51 per cent of the population and approximately 48.1 per cent of the workforce in Newfoundland and Labrador are women.
We have a significant shortage of skilled tradespeople and technologists, and the most powerful solution lies in employing more women. That’s where organizations, like Women in Resource Development Corporation (WRDC) come into the picture. WRDC’s mission is to increase the participation of women in the natural resource sector. WRDC is a non-profit organization committed to advancing the economic equality of women in Newfoundland and Labrador, by increasing their participation in high-paying trades, technologies and operation occupations. WRDC has been in operation since 1997 and, in 2002, created a charitable arm—the Educational Resource Centre—to provide information to girls and women regarding training and careers in skilled trades and technologies.Through generous sponsorship, they can offer training programs, free-of-charge, to girls and women throughout the province. WRDC begins working with young girls as early as the age of nine.
They offer their GETT Program—Girls Exploring Trades and Technology for girls ages nine to twelve. The program reinforces the importance of studying science, advanced math and industrial arts by stressing the impact these subjects have on career decisions.“It’s tremendous fun and very empowering for those girls, because they don’t just use hand tools, they use power tools; then their parents and community leaders come in and watch them at the end of the week. The boys are all looking on really enviously because they too want to be involved,” says Charmaine Davidge, executive director of WRDC. Next, WRDC has GREAT, which stands for Girls in Renewable Energy and Alternative Technologies. GREAT helps bring the message of carbon footprints to seventh- 36 WINTER 2011 grade girls through a series of science-exploration, hands-on activities.
TECHSPLORATION— is a six-month career exploration program that provides ninth-grade girls with the opportunity to examine employment opportunities in skilled trades and technology.
Techsploration would not be the successful program it is today without strong industry sponsors. One such supporter is Meg O’Neill, President of ExxonMobil. “Promoting and reinforcing the fact that young women can make choices, that they can succeed in a career in trades or technology is important. We believe programs like Techsploration are helping get that message out. It will ensure that we have a bigger pool of qualified workers today and in years to come. That’s the main reason why ExxonMobil was the founding sponsor of the Techsploration program in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in Nova Scotia. I invited a number of students participating in the program to breakfast earlier this year, and I saw firsthand that the program was a positive experience for the students, teachers and ExxonMobil mentors,” says O’Neill.
Another exciting camp WRDC offers is camp GLOW—Group Learning for Outgoing Women. Camp GLOW, a joint initiative with the Marine Institute, is an amazing opportunity for young girls to learn about firefighting and empowerment. Women will develop the confidence and leadership skills to pursue their dreams or to explore a possible career change. The women work in confined spaces, put on all the firefighting gear and actually fight fires!
OTT — Orientation to Trades and Technology (OTT) is a program designed to give women practical experience in natural-resource-based industries. OTT raises the awareness that high-paying jobs in the natural resource industries are attainable for women. Women, ages 19 and over, are welcome to apply to the OTT program. More information on the OTT eligibility and entrance requirements can be found on WRDC’s website.
The women working with WRDC are passionate, enthusiastic and motivated to help other women. I left my meeting feeling their passion and commitment to the women of our province; they truly want to see women succeed. There is a strong focus on the continuity of WRDC’s “lifecycle” approach, where girls can go on to work in industry and, years later, come back to WRDC and mentor other women. WRDC is continually seeking great mentors. We’re looking for women who are working in the natural resource sector who can become involved and share their wisdom, experiences and expertise. Mentorship exposes girls and women to the great opportunities in trades and technology—If they can see a successful woman working in these careers, they believe they can do it too!
For more information on WRDC’s programs and services, please visit www.wrdc.nf.ca
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