FARMINGTON — Foster Career and Technical Education Center and New Ventures Maine offered a unique opportunity Friday, Nov. 9 for eighth and ninth-grade girls to get a hands-on taste of some non-traditional career options.

Totally Trades! Conference for Girls connected girls with professionals in fields such as automotive, aviation, forestry, welding, firefighting, and engineering.

“We give girls a hands-on workshop experience to spark their interest and raise awareness about a career field that they may not have previously considered, as well as provide female role models – women who can lead by example, having already succeeded in pursuing work that traditionally is viewed as ‘man’s work’,” said Suzanne Senechal-Jandreau, New Ventures regional manager for Aroostook County.

Mt. Blue High School student Shaylynn Koban impressed presenters with her construction technique in the design and build workshop during the New Ventures Totally Trades! Conference for Girls at Foster CTE Center. (Dee Menear/Franklin Journal)

Role models such as Farmington Fire Department volunteer Patty Cormier, Farmington Aubuchon Hardware manager Brenda Fronk and Maine Army National Guard Sgt. Annette Bachman led girls through the basics of their careers during mini-workshop sessions.

Rangeley Lakes Regional High School student Emmarae MacFawn tried out the heavy equipment provided by Maine Department of Transportation and Sargent Corporation.

“I’ve never operated an excavator before,” MacFawn said as she climbed into one. “But I live on a farm and have used heavy equipment like a tractor before.”

New Ventures is a statewide program offering classes and individual assistance in career planning, said Janet Smith, western regional manager.

“Most of the work we do is with adults but these programs for girls are growing in popularity. This is the third one we have held here in Farmington,” Smith said.

Maine DOT is a major sponsor of the conferences as part of its Gender Equality Program, Smith said.

Students who would normally attend classes at Foster CTE Center were busy taking financial education classes at the University of Maine at Farmington during the conference.

Emmarae MacFawn fearlessly sits in an excavator during New Ventures Totally Trades! Conference for Girls at Foster CTE Center. MacFawn is a Rangeley Lakes Regional High School student. (Dee Menear/Franklin Journal)

“We want the girls to have fun and learn without feeling pressure from students already in the program,” said Foster CTE Center Director Melissa Williams.

Mt. Blue High School student Hali Swiney admitted she was having fun as she mixed mortar in the bricklaying workshop. The workshop was hosted by Dorrie James of Maine School of Masonry in Avon.

“This is pretty neat. I’ve never even thought about anything like this,” Swiney said.

Foster CTE Center offers high school students hands-on career and technical instruction in programs such as building construction, business education, commercial arts and photography, culinary arts, digital media, firefighting, forestry and wood harvesting and metal fabrication. For more information, visit www.foster.mainecte.org.

For more information about New Ventures, visit www.newventuresmaine.org

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