“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” So said Eleanor Roosevelt, and so shared Dianne Tilton, former state legislator and current Executive Director of the Downeast Institute for Applied Sciences, as she addressed approximately 130 young women from around Eastern Washington County. The 8th graders and their guests assembled as a group on October 26th at Washington County Community College [WCCC] to take part in the annual Totally Trades! Conference.
Tilton was the keynote speaker for the event, which – in addition to enabling the young women to hear from an inspiring figure that had spent her lifetime excelling in positions that once excluded women – gave each attendee the opportunity to try her hand at a non-traditional trade.
Non-traditional trades are those in which a particular gender comprises only 25 percent of less of those working in the field. In 2017, those fields for women were automotive technicians, welders, civil engineers, heavy equipment operators, and plumbers – all of which, and more, were available for Totally Trades! attendees to explore on Friday.
Thirteen workshops were open to the students, many of which included women in corresponding fields. Firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement were on-scene to provide direct experience with their daily duties and to let the students handle the associated equipment. Some young women chose to learn how to create s-hooks using a forge, hammer, and anvil, while others operated heavy equipment simulators or learned how to change the oil in vehicles. A close inspection of an ATV motor and its functioning was right up the alley for some students, who also learned repair and maintenance tips and tricks. The design-oriented opted for building stable miniature structures with engineers from St. Croix Tissue and Woodland Pulp or learning how to use Computer Aided Drafting software to create 3D models. Each young woman could pick from two of the available workshops.
In working with New Ventures Maine, the Totally Trades! Conference gives young women around the state the chance to explore new fields and career possibilities. This conference has been ongoing for many years in Washington County, in partnership with WCCC. Major financial sponsors include the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Transportation.