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“The guidance counsellors
in the high schools, as well as parents, are not doing a good enough job of
encouraging construction trades to girls as a career option,” Monahan says.
Peer pressure also plays a role. “Girls don’t want to be the ‘only one’ doing
something among their friends,” she adds.
In 2005, Pemberton
Secondary School implemented a carpentry apprentice program, which enables
Grade 12 students to complete their first year apprenticeship while still in
high school. In its first year, 21 boys enrolled. Last year, seven boys
completed the program. There has not been a single female student enrolled thus
far. Poul Jakobsen, a former BCIT instructor who teaches the carpentry program
at Pemberton Secondary, admits that intimidation, and the newness of the
program, may be causing female students to pass over this very practical,
creative, and potentially lucrative opportunity.
Jordan Kobelka, a 2005
graduate of Whistler Secondary School, says the atmosphere at her high school
was similar; girls were not really introduced to the trades as a possible
career choice. Kobelka says that university was emphasized, but the trades were
an option “geared to the boys.” Even when she talked to her guidance
counsellor, construction trades were not brought up. She believes that bringing
some women currently working in the construction trades into the school would
make the industry more attractive and more accessible to young women
contemplating life after graduation.
Kobelka’s father is a
plumbing contractor, and he got his daughter started in the business stocking
parts as a summer job. In order for her to become more familiar with the
different plumbing parts her father’s employees needed, he sent her out on the
job sites. Now she is working as an apprentice plumber, and has experienced a
variety of job sites and responsibilities, from “working at the Chateau, to
working on the new university in Squamish, to doing renos in Whistler.”
Has the atmosphere on the
job been hospitable to her?
“Absolutely. Most of the
time, the guys have been great. There have been a few times when I got some
weird looks, but most of the time I have had no problem.”