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Totally Trades conference introduces young women to “non-traditional” career options

Community businesses and educational staff provided thirteen hands-on workshops, including welding, coding robots, building construction, drones, firefighting, automotive repair, EMT, forensics, digging and dozing, plumbing, electricity, and telecommunications. 

One hundred and ten female ninth grade students from areas high schools convened at Central Maine Community College recently for a hands-on introduction to a variety of trade occupations. These trades, formerly affiliated almost exclusively with males, are today increasingly open to females, but are still widely considered “non-traditional occupations.”

New Ventures Maine has been organizing Totally Trades conferences in different parts of Maine for the past sixteen years. As the current population of trades workers approaches retirement, and replacements for them are hard to come by in today’s labor market, the goal is to exposeyoung women to possible career choices offering good pay and benefits that they may not think are options for them.

The event is free for the participants. Funding and support comes from the Maine Departments of Education and Transportation, Hardy Pond Construction, Spectrum, Cianbro, Maine Oxy, Central Maine Community College, the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, and New Ventures Maine. 

Planners included LRTC, CMCC, representatives of area high schools and the Maine Department of Transportation, and NVME. This is the third year the conference was held in this area. It expected to grow to accommodate 140 girls in 2020. 

This year, community businesses and educational staff provided thirteen hands-on workshops, including welding, coding robots, building construction, drones, firefighting, automotive repair, EMT, forensics, digging and dozing, plumbing, electricity, and telecommunications. New for this year, almost every workshop was either assisted or led by a female who has already succeeded in a trade occupation or is currently pursuing trade skills. 

Keynote speaker Stacey Timberlake, an electrical journeyman from the IBEW Union, shared her enthusiasm for her apprenticeship, saying this path has led her to a “great paying, skilled, and satisfying position… with no school debts or loans.”

“Last year, every single evaluation indicated that the girls would recommend the conference to a friend,” said lead coordinator Chris Davis of New Ventures Maine. “That’s a strong sign that they’re taking something valuable away from the experience.” 

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