PORT HAWKESBURY: A program that that aims to help high school-age girls build confidence while exploring new careers celebrated its 20-year anniversary last week.

On Friday, the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus hosted over 70 young women and their teachers, as well as female industry leaders from across Nova Scotia for the annual regional Techsplorer 2018 event.

“Techsploration is a small grassroots organization that has this excellent model for encouraging young women to explore careers in science, trades, and technology,” said Emily Boucher, manager of communications and strategic partnership for Techsploration.

Photos by Melanie Holder
Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School Students Monica Lumsden (left), Gabrielle Jenkins, and Annika Eckhart have been involved with the Techsploration program since grade 9. They were on-hand last Friday to cheer on their fellow Techsplorers.

The organization works with approximately 40 schools across the province to match girls in grade nine with female role models in a variety of fields.

“We have everyone from an aircraft technician who works with IMP, to an engineer with Encana, to the second female red seal plumber in Nova Scotia,” said Boucher. “Some of our role models are literally female pioneers in their fields.”

Friday’s event at NSCC was a culmination of a three-part program that began in February with Techsploration Goes to Work when teams of students from each school accompanied their role model to her worksite.

“We try to make it as hands-on as possible. If she’s a plumber, they’re soldering pipe and if it’s an engineer, they’re looking at blueprints,” said Boucher. “They took all of that information and developed a presentation and a skit to do in front of their entire school as part of Techsploration Goes to School.”

At last week’s Techsplorer 2018 event, Students from J.H. Gillis Regional High School presented a skit demonstrating what they learned while on the job with their role model in the Canadian Border Serices Agency.

After receiving feedback on the presentations from their role models, the Techsplorers came together for the annual regional event at NSCC to share their work to each other. Their skits depicted what it is like to work in a variety of roles, from a medical researcher to a marine engineer with the Canadian Coast Guard.

“Public speaking is a huge component of our program. It helps build the confidence of the young women who participate,” said Boucher.

One of the major goals of the program is to increase the number of women entering careers in science, trades, and technology.

“One of the reasons we start in grade 9 is because that’s the year they choose the math and science courses they need in order to eventually go into post-secondary school,” said Boucher.

Boucher says organizers have seen many past alumni return to the program as role models, and students who have previously taken part are encouraged to come back and attend the regional events.

Students like Ria Juurlink (seen here) presented last Friday on their experiences learning from female role models in a variety of fields.

Monica Lumsden, a student at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School and one of the program’s alumni said she didn’t realize how many career opportunities were available until she got involved.

“It’s awesome to get to hop around and try everything. Even seeing women in the workforce is really empowering as a student,” said Lumsden.

Lumsden’s classmate Gabrielle Jenkins said she was inspired by seeing her role model in a position of leadership.

“We worked with an industrial engineer at the Halifax shipyard,” said Jenkins. “It’s kind of cool to see her as the empowering woman who is in charge of a bunch of men.”

Fellow alumna Annika Eckart said she enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the program.

“We went on one of the ships, the HCMS Montréal,” she said. “It was interesting actually being down with the machinery and seeing how everything worked.”

Grade 9 girls from any Techsploration school can apply to take part. With the help of their sponsors, Techsploration covers any costs associated with participation.

In honour of their 20-year anniversary this year, Techsploration is giving away 20 scholarships to young women who have participated in the program or who attend a Techsploration high school.

The crew from Dalbrae Academy worked with Dr. Genevieve Weir of Immunovaccine. At last week’s Techsplorer event at NSCC, they presented on how scientists are searching for cures to diseases such as ovarian cancer.