Totally Trades

More than 120 young women last week participated in the annual Totally Trades Conference at the Washington County Community College., The girls, who traveled from as far away as Jonesport-Beals to Baileyville, were introduced to non-traditional disciplines including plumbing, automotive and electrical trades. Hailey Bell, 13 of Edmunds Consolidated School, chose the Welding Workshop where she placed a red-hot piece of metal she had just taken out of the kiln onto an anvil. Using a hammer, she then pounded and shaped it into a hook. (WCCC Photo)

There was the hiss of an air hose, the sizzle of a hot fire and the tap, tap, tap of hammers during the annual Totally Trades Conference for young women at the Washington County Community College last week.

During the daylong event, the girls built birdhouses, shaped metal hooks and learned how to winterize a car. More than 120 young women, grades eight through 12, from Jonesport-Beals to Baileyville participated in the daylong workshop.

It all started at 8 a.m. in the entryway to St. Croix Hall. When the students arrived, they signed up for two of the 14 workshops that were offered. The entryway was abuzz with excitement as the young women hemmed and hawed before putting their names on the workshop sheets. 

Larissa Holland, 15, and Logan Fitzsimmons, 15, both sophomores at Washington Academy, chose rock climbing, building a bird house and criminal justice. They both were interested in rock climbing, but also were interested in other workshops. “I am interested in criminal justice,” Holland said. Whereas, Fitzsimmons said she wanted to build a birdhouse something, she said, she had never done before. 

Elizabeth Ramsdell, 13, of Machias said she too was interested in rock climbing. She said she had done it before and really enjoyed it.

Each year the event is sponsored by Women, Work and Community, a statewide organization committed to improving the economic lives of Maine families, in cooperation with the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Department of Education, Time Warner Cable of Maine and WCCC.

“We want to give girls a hands-on workshop experience to spark their interest and raise their awareness about a career field they may have not previously considered, as well as provide female role models _women who can lead by example, having already succeeded in pursing work that traditionally is viewed as ‘man’s work,’” Suzanne Senecha-Jandreau, conference planner and regional manager of the Aroostook Center for Women, Work and Community said. 

After signing in, the students were given souvenir Totally Trades T-shirts and a packet. They then headed downstairs where they enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruit and homemade pastries provided by the Culinary Arts students at the college. 

After that, WCCC President Joe Cassidy welcomed the young women and told them that more and more women entering the community college system were signing up for a variety of technical programs including everything from mechanics and plumbing to electrical trades. He said that the staff at WCCC stood ready to assist them by answering questions and being supportive. Cassidy then introduced Susan Corbett, owner and chief executive officer of Axiom Technologies in Machias.

Corbett talked about the paths she took that led her to become the owner and CEO of a successful Maine company. She encouraged the young women to pursue their dreams and she talked about the challenges she faced in a predominantly male field. 

“There are 40 internet service providers in the state of Maine, only one is owned by a woman. You can just imagine those first meetings with other internet service providers. You know, just me and the guys,” she said.

She urged the young women to follow their dreams and believe in themselves.

Then it was off to the workshops.

Hailey Bell, 13 of Edmunds Consolidated School, was a study in concentration in Will Dupis’ Welding Workshop as she placed a red-hot piece of metal she had just taken out of the kiln onto an anvil. Using a hammer, she then pounded and shaped it into a hook.

Meanwhile over in the Automotive Workshop, Morgan Elliott-Roode, of Skowhegan, a student in WCCC’s Automotive Program, helped students check the air in the tire of a car as part of the winterizing lesson.

At other workshops there was an assortment of professional women including Trooper Kim Janes of the Maine State Police and Lt. Mary Zidalis of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, along with women from U. S. Customs and Border Protection, who talked about careers in law enforcement.

Other workshops focused on women’s roles as pilots and boom operators in the Maine Air National Guard. 

Television has popularized some professions for young women so there even was a workshop titled CSI, which looked at everything for the biology of insects that can determine time of death to the precise physics that determine a bullet’s trajectory. 

In the Construction Shop, young women were building birdhouses and over in the gymnasium others chose to tackle the rock climbing wall. 

At the end of the workshops it was back to the gym for a class in self-defense and then an afternoon of more workshops. 

The fun day ended in the lecture hall at St. Croix Hall. The young women watched a video of Makayla Cobb, a student who signed up for the Class A truck driving course at St. Croix Regional Technical Center in Calais.