by Ethan Paquet
Techsploration offers educational programming to young youth in grades nine through 12 to help them explore and understand Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and skilled trades careers.
The program supports participants by providing them with guidance and mentorship as they explore a wide range of career options in fields where women are often underrepresented.
Last year, Kinkora Regional High School became the first PEI school to participate in the program.
“There has always been a strong interest in sciences from our female students,” says Jessica McCarthy, School Counsellor, who organized the program at the school. “Now, Techsploration is helping us expand their interest and knowledge and allowing them to see that there are so many jobs they didn’t even know existed.”
Each participating school crafts a team of up to eight students who undergo an intensive educational component before being paired with a mentor who provides them with insight into careers in STEM and the skilled trades.
PEI’s first team consisted of six grade 9 students, one grade 10 student, and three grade 11 students who were mentored by Michele Hoy, Owner of Clear Build Solutions, a company that assists in modernizing the cabinet manufacturing industry by offering software solutions and upgrades.
“Our team researched Michele’s background and her field of work, and we visited her worksite in Summerside. After touring the cabinet-making facility, we sat down to talk more about her educational journey and how she came to enter this career path.”
During the final component of the program, participants create a visual presentation and share their knowledge with the rest of the school. The presentation is later used in a friendly competition with other schools that took part in the program.
“Everyone in the program last year became more open to the opportunities out there. I’ve always said, ‘you have to see it to be it,’ so when these girls were able to go and see what is available, they could start considering more options.”
The success of the program’s first year made it easier to recruit students this year, Jessica says. “Last year, the program was hard to sell because no other school on PEI had done it before.
“This year, last year’s team went into the classrooms to talk about their experience. We now have a team of seven grade 9 students.”
With the program’s success at Kinkora, Jessica hopes other Island schools will take part in future offerings. “I know educators are busy, but we really want to encourage other schools to participate. Our goal is to eventually have our own community of schools offering Techsploration on PEI.”
Before Emily Hunter joined the program as a grade 11 student last year, she thought she only had two career choices. “I thought my only options were to become a nurse or a teacher, because I didn’t know many women who were working in other fields. I was convinced I was going to be a nurse.”
Now in grade 12, her career goals have completely changed since taking the program. “Before Techsploration, the skilled trades didn’t seem like an option for me. But now that I have learned about the different career paths, I’m looking at some of the trades programs and seeing them in a way I never saw them before, and seeing how I can fit into these roles.”
As she begins to apply for a variety of post-secondary courses, she’s confident the skills she learns in the program will guide her towards her future goals. “I’ve decided that I’m going to try something and stick with it for a little bit, but that I am never going to let myself be stuck. That’s what I took from the program: you are never really stuck, because there are so many options out there.”
Techsploration PEI has been made possible in partnership with the PEI Business Women’s Association and with funding support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.