PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Despite changing times, it still is difficult for some to imagine a female construction worker building a home or showing up to do a bit of plumbing work.
But the image has become more realistic thanks to the Totally Trades conference, which will be held for the sixth time next week at Northern Maine Community College.
The conference is a daylong event designed to prompt girls to consider careers in fields traditionally dominated by men. Sessions ranging from carpentry and plumbing to heavy equipment operation and building bridges will take place Wednesday.
“We expect to have around 75 girls taking part in the event this year,” Suzanne Senechal-Jandreau, regional manager of the Central Aroostook office of Women, Work and Community, said Thursday. “We always get great feedback from the girls who participate, and we are looking forward to another great event this year.”
Women, Work and Community, NMCC, the state Department of Transportation, Women Unlimited, the Maine Career Center, local contractors, local school representatives and other community groups sponsor Totally Trades. Aroostook Coalition for Women in Trades and Technology is one of several local groups, united through a statewide Women in Trades and Technology coalition, whose focus is to raise awareness of and provide support and opportunity to women and girls who pursue or are pursuing nontraditional careers in trades and technology fields.
The conference is a free, one-day event for Aroostook County girls in eighth through 12th grade. Funding and in-kind services from area companies and agencies help pay for it.
Aside from participating in two workshop sessions, the participants at NMCC will attend a luncheon and a panel discussion featuring several women who work in trade and technical occupations. A group school activity based on engineering principles will end the day.
Senechal-Jandreau said participants always tell organizers how much they enjoy taking part in the event.
“The girls love the hands-on workshops; they always tell us that,” she said. “And the participants tell us that it is great to be around girls who have the same interests that they do. They enjoy being around girls who also are interested in fields like construction.”
While Senechal-Jandreau said the event always sees a great turnout, she admitted it is getting harder to find funding to support it.
“We would love to continue this well into the future,” she said Thursday. “But it is getting harder to round up sponsors for the event. The economy is very difficult right now and we have had to work hard to find sponsors. But we will continue to do all that we can as long as we can to raise the money to put this on.”
Conference registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Edmunds Conference Center. Individuals seeking more information on the Totally Trades conference or who are interested in participating should contact Senechal-Jandreau at 764-0050.