Jill of All Trades program plans to expand across Canada

A Jill of All Trades participant learns to weld

The Jill of All Trades program is planning to expand nationwide by 2026. 

Since 2014, Conestoga College has hosted the day-long event to inspire young women in Grades 9 to 12 to pursue education and careers in skilled trades and apprenticeship. At the recent Ontario AED breakfast, held at Toromont Power Systems in Brampton, Ontario, Jill of All Trades founders, Brenda Gilmore and Rosie Hessian explained why the program was founded and its plans to attach more young women to the trades. 

“I realized there were  institutions and industries that were trying their best to bring more diversity into the skilled trades, but we were all doing it in isolation,” Gilmore said. 

“Everyone was trying to do their part, but it wasn’t really moving the needle.” 

Each Jill of All Trades event includes several hands-on workshops in the motive power, industrial and construction trades. The workshops are led by female mentors to help young women develop a better understanding of a career in the skilled trades. As well, the program works with High Schools to identify students that may be interested in a skilled trades career. 

“These young women are hand-picked from their high schools. They want to be there,” Gilmore said. “I can’t say there’s one event I’ve been to where the girls are looking for the door. That’s not happening here and that’s part of the success of these events.” 

The first event in 2014 attracted about 140 participants, including students, employers and school boards. Last year, the program hosted six events across Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, attracting nearly 850 students. 

“We think we have the secret sauce and we’re not scared to share that,” Gilmore said. 

By 2026, Jill of All Trades plans to expand to 25 institutions across Canada and deliver more than 70 events in the next four years. The program also plans to expand into the United States, and it has received interest from schools outside of North America.

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“We have a vision for Jill of All Trades and it’s basically this: bringing our communities together, networking and helping young women choose a trades career,” Hessian said. “This is the same message across Canada, North America and internationally.” 

Jill of All Trades Sponsorship

To meet the expansion plan, Conestoga is partnering with North American sponsors. A sponsorship benefits young women and helps them understand the value of pursuing a career in the skilled trades and address future workforce needs. All sponsorships will receive an appropriate level of recognition and are eligible for a business receipt. 

“I just want to put it out there, it’s not paying for people’s salaries or things like that. It’s paying for the operational costs,” Gilmore said. 

For more information on sponsorship, contact Brenda Gilmore at Bgilmore@conestogac.on.ca.