What did you want to be when you were 12 years old?

That is the question Yukon Women in Trades and Technology (YWITT) is asking women.

“We are always trying to connect with young women,” says Kim Solanick, YWITT’s executive director, “and we created a fun online survey – with prizes – to make that connection.”

The organization launched the survey last April through its website and Facebook page, and plans to leave it up for a year. The 20 responses they have collected so far have been eye opening.

“These women wanted to be everything from a police officer, veterinarian, psychologist, or lawyer,” says Solanick. “Prime Minister of Canada also came up a number of times. And they were mostly influenced by their immediate friends and family – or Kim Campbell.”

The majority of women surveyed, however, ultimately chose another career.

“We find people fall into careers,” Solanick says. “There’s not a defined way to a career, and YWITT is trying to define that path a bit toward the trades.”

The organization, which was formed 13 years ago, has created an assortment of programs to help steer young women in that direction from an early age. On November 29, for example, 120 Grade 8 girls will converge on Yukon College for its annual Young Women Exploring Trades Career Fair.

“They get to choose three workshops from multimedia to welding,” Solanick says. “And they get to keep what they make, like a meal to take home or an e-card to share with friends and family. We hope this sparks their interest in taking a trade as they’re planning their school years and extracurricular activities.”

From Grades 8 to 12, YWITT supports this interest through its after-school Cool Tools program. The four-hour workshops run over 12 weeks and cover a range of trades with hands-on training, such as heavy equipment simulators.

“There are just 10 students at a time,” Solanick says. “So there are more opportunities to mentor the students. It gives them more confidence so they’re more likely to take the next step, like an industrial arts class in school.”

According to Solanick, the program has had a lot of success. One young woman came to the January Cool Tools sessions and took six workshops. She really wanted to be an automotive mechanic, but the formal training was not offered in Whitehorse. As a single mother, she weighed her options and decided to pursue her second love.

“She’s registered in the carpentry pre-employment program — she starts this fall and is really happy about it.”

“There is incredible funding support to go Outside for training,” Solanick says. “And you’re only going out for eight to 12 weeks training and then come back to apprentice – not like eight months away out of the year for university.”

You also “earn while you learn,” which appeals to many students eager to avoid post-secondary education debt.

YWITT offers two $1,000 awards each year. Tanisha Leas is the most recent recipient of the Penny Raven Bursary, and will be entering the electrical pre-employment program at Yukon College this fall.

While YWITT focuses on encouraging young women to pursue careers in the trades, they create opportunities for women of all ages.

“We’re working with Habitat for Humanity to build an entire duplex with only women on crew,” Solanick says. “We had women out shovelling gravel all day in the hot sun this summer, and then go home to host a fancy dinner party a couple of hours later.

“Northern women have more opportunities — and more expectations — to do things that might not happen Outside. We want to make them feel more confident about their home, car, and computer. And if they go for a career in the trades – all the more power to them.”

To take the survey, or for more details about Yukon Women in Trades and Technologies’ programs and bursaries, please go to www.yukonwitt.org.