Young minds racing

Jonathan Parsons
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Soapbox derby camp in Clarenville

Girls in Clarenville were having fun and building their very own soapbox racers last week at a camp organized by Esteem Women Inc.

The organization puts together these types of camps for young girls in an effort to promote interest in trades.

The Building with Becky Soapbox Derby Camp allows girls aged nine to 13 to learn how to use tools and build their very own soapbox derby cart. They built their carts at the College of the North Atlantic in Clarenville, which donated their space and some materials.

Hannah Tilley is working for the organization this summer as a project support specialist. She told The Packet this program gives the girls a chance at potentially pursuing a professional path that females are not necessarily encouraged to go in.

“(The camp is) to get girls interested and give them the opportunity that maybe they wouldn’t already have,” she said.

Mary Clarke is running the camp and says this idea was part of their own idea, as part of Esteem Women Inc. to encourage girls into the trades. She has been doing this for many years and helps the kids hands on, teaching them skills to build their carts.

Clarke says this is the hundredth camp she has done, teaching things like how to build birdhouses, put together and wire a lamp, or other skills related to trades.

“Lots of camps to try and encourage girls mainly, I work with because there is such a low participation of women in skilled trades and technical jobs,” said Clarke. “It’s just that initiative to try and increase participation because right now only seven percent of the skilled trades are women. If you take hairdressers and chefs out of that, it drops to four percent. If you look at a jobsite, only four percent are women, and women are 52 percent of the population, so we’re trying to get those numbers up.”

Clarke realizes not all of these girls will go into the skilled trades, but this camp can present it as an option. It’s a good potential starting off point.

“It kind of breaks down the barrier of being so nervous to do something because you don’t know anything about it,” she said. “This kind of gives them a little bit of confidence that when they’re in high school, if they have a skilled trades program at the school, they’ll be more inclined to take it.”

In Newfoundland and Labrador, tradespeople make up a lot of the working population and companies have recognized it is important to involve young women so they have the same advantages in this field as men.

“We do this with sponsorship from people like Hibernia, who are trying to get workers prepared for when they need them. They have sponsored us with some funding,” said Clarke.

She said the girls at the camp were having a great time and showed quite a bit of talent as well.

“We’ve got some girls here that are really good at sawing and using the jigsaw and the router and things like that,” said Clarke. “Possibly, they could be tradeswomen. Even if they’re not, it gives them the confidence to try something.”

Victoria Hoyles and Sara Squibb were two of the girls in the workshop building racers. Sarah said she is most looking forward to racing her cart once it is completed, while Victoria was also excited to race she said the camp was fun too.

“I like building the go-carts and painting them. It was really fun building them.

It’s simple, not if we had to do it by ourselves, though. We have people helping us,” said Victoria.

There are also programs that encourage older girls to become actively involved in these types of male-dominated fields.

“When the girls get a bit older, we have another program called GOSETT (Girls in Operation, Science, Engineering, Trades and Tech). They’ll do a more intense program; they get to go to the University and see what goes on there, work in some of the shops, see the engineering, see the technology,” said Clarke.

She said that some of the girls in the program were on the Clarenville High ROV team that won an international competition in Michigan last month. Clarke plans to take girls to an ROV company in St. John’s to focus on real-life, day-to-day ROV operators.

As for the girls of Building for Becky, they have their chance to try out their creations and race their carts on Thursday at  Riverside Elementary. They will be showing their carts from 4 to 5 p.m. and racing from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

There will be a similar camp offered from July 28 to Aug. 1 in Placentia, and then another camp in the Lethbridge area.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, The Building, Esteem Women Clarenville High ROV

Geographic location: Clarenville, Victoria, Newfoundland and Labrador Michigan Placentia Lethbridge

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Recent comments

  • Jerry Kerfont
    July 17, 2014 - 18:00

    Maybe they'll be more inclusive next year and let boys participate too.