Grade 8 Monterey middle school student Fionalee Lustado shows the octopus she welded during a workshop at the Nov. 20 Choices conference.

Workshops help illuminate career paths

Grade 8 girls in Oak Bay and across Greater Victoria take part in Choices career awareness conference

Sarah Miller walked out of Vic High last week with a 12-inch steel octopus she welded herself.

It was the first time Miller ever picked up a torch. The Colquitz middle school Grade 8 student chose the interactive welding seminar, one of 15 workshops as part of the inaugural Choices career awareness conference. The School District 61 initiative brought together 120 Grade 8 girls from all 10 middle schools. It started at Vic High, and bused the crew to Spectrum Community School for lunch and speeches.

“I liked welding, it was challenging. (The octopus) will be great for hanging key chains or jewelry,” said Miller.

Monterey middle school student Fionalee Lustado attended the women in policing and welding workshops.

“I wasn’t thinking about what I might do as a career. I’m not sure I’ll do welding (or policing) but now I’m thinking about (what different the careers are),” she said.

At 13, Miller is in the minority, as she already has designs on joining the navy when she grows up (she’s a leading seaman with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Rainbow branch in Esquimalt). Likewise, her counterpart Taya Iverson is likely to attend Spectrum next year.

“I want to do woodwork. Trades is in my family,” Iverson said.

Even so, both admit the day was an eye-opener.

“It’s great to hear from women actually working in (their industry),” Iverson added.

Choices is designed to raise awareness with Grade 8 girls about the variety of career pathways and learning opportunities that are available to young women, said Anna Lisa Bond, the middle school career and transitions co-ordinator who orchestrated the event.

“We’re showcasing it as a female focused event by no means to isolate or exclude, but as an opportunity to share possible learning pathways with young women. We often only know what we have seen our own parents, or families engage in, and when exposed to new experiences and possibilities, our thoughts begin to expand and new worlds can open up to us.”

The workshops covered trades, including welding, steel-fitting, electrical, robotics and autobody. It also looked at careers in policing, health and science, fine arts, agriculture and more.

Bond helped organize a similar initiative with a trades focus, when Grade 7 and 8 students partnered to construct a shed for donation at Lambrick Park and Gordon Head Rec Centre in the spring.