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Nao Ito of the Explorer Hotel shows a group of students the art of sushi-making during the Power Up youth conference. - Dorothy Westerman/NNSL photo

Girls can get their hands dirty, too

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 04/05) - Trades and non-traditional careers for Northern women were highlighted during a Skills Canada NWT/Nunavut Power Up youth conference in Yellowknife Jan.31.

More than 150 Grade 8 students from across the North converged for day-long workshops to hear career information about the various non-traditional occupations for women.

Sylvie LeFort, program administrator for Skills Canada NWT/NU, said the Power Up conference introduced non-traditional occupations to Northern female students. - Dorothy Westerman/NNSL photo

Sylvie LeFort, program administrator for Skills Canada NWT/NU, said Grade 8 tends to be the age when students start thinking about their career choices.

"We want them to be interested and curious about their options.

"The sooner they are exposed to it, the better it is. If they want to achieve it, they can do it."

Non-traditional jobs highlighted included heavy equipment operator, millwright, biologist and chef.

While challenges do exist for female students entering non-traditional careers, LeFort said women accepting these roles inevitably makes it easier for others choosing the same career path.

Students participated in several hands-on workshops to learn about career choices available to them.

Victoria Carpenter of Yellowknife said she took an interest in the sushi-making workshop after a dining experience in Vancouver, B.C.

"It was interesting, but overall I think it's a great program for girls and women to get into different businesses. It's pretty cool."

Carpenter said she is considering a career in plumbing with one of the Northern mines. She has carefully considered the pros and cons of such a career, but it's something she is interested in.

"There are some advantages because you get to see new places. I think it's all kind of good."

Students had the opportunity during the conference to discuss a specific area of work and then participate in a hands-on occupational workshop.

One student, Marie Nimiqtaqtuq from Gjoa Haven, said she was interested in pursuing a career in fire rescue.

"I want to save people out of the fire," she said.

Nimiqtaqtuq said she had fun during the workshop. She learned about the proper equipment needed to perform a firefighter's job.

"Anybody can be a firefighter," she said of the opportunity.

Jill Watier, who works in a non-traditional career as a millwright with BHP Billiton, said she is the only woman doing that job in the North.

"A few of the guys have worked with women before, but I'd like to see more, that's for sure," she said.

Watier attended the workshop to talk to the students about her career.

"I'm telling them about the apprenticeship program and how to get into the trade," Watier said.

She noted one of the challenges of her position is that it can be physically demanding, but otherwise she enjoys the work.