Unlocking the Toolkit

By Patty Nero

On April 19, 2018, Winnipeg Construction Association’s Construction Education Centre was bustling with more than 90 girls in Grades 5 and 6 who rolled up their sleeves to get some hands-on construction trades experience at the third-annual Unlocking the Toolkit event.

Hosted by Manitoba Women in Construction (MWC) and Manitoba Status of Women, this one-day event provided female students from Manitoba schools the opportunity to explore careers in the construction trades and technology through interactive demonstrations with women role models. The event featured seven hands-on activities facilitated by tradeswomen in areas such as carpentry, crane operation simulation, electrical, plumbing and pipefitting, welding and engineering.

Returning volunteer Raisa, along with first time volunteer, Zoe were excited to participate in the event. Raisa and Zoe are current students at Kildonan-East Collegiate and are majoring in the Electrical program. Both students agreed that the event is a great opportunity for the young female students to consider different career paths when they get older.  Zoe, currently in Grade 11, plans to continue her education to become an electrician.

Cat Westlake, a teacher from River East Collegiate, commends MWC for hosting this event as it is a tremendous opportunity for the young students to consider their options. “Young female students participating in today’s event (have more) awareness and opportunity for attaining skills, learning and training,” said Westlake. “The takeaway today is that there are no limitations to what these young females can achieve. It’s important these young ladies are reminded to become specialists in something they are passionate about.”

Status of Women studies reveal the best time to introduce girls to the different opportunities available to them is in Grade 5 and 6. With recent industry reports of a looming skilled labour shortage, the time to educate underrepresented groups on what it means to work in the construction industry is now.

“It also gives women in this industry an opportunity to showcase to young females what a career in construction can be for a woman,” said Teri Urban, Immediate Past Chair for MWC and Unlocking the Toolkit planning committee representative. “When we were all younger we never had that opportunity. Especially the ladies in the trades, they never had anyone telling them that if you like working with your hands and you like a challenging career that a trade could be a really good option for you.”

A special thanks to The Province of Manitoba, the many volunteers and all the sponsors who helped make the event a huge success.

Presenting Sponsors:


Major Sponsors:


Gold Sponsors:

Bockstael Construction Limited

Parkwest Projects Ltd.

Nor-Tec Group

Prairie Architects Inc.

Gillis Quaries Ltd.

Nelson River Construction

PCL Constructors Canada Inc.

GovanBrown Construction Managers


Silver Sponsors:

Tractus Projects


Bronze Sponsors:

Western Construction Services

LAST CALL To Clean it All

Chabot Enterprises Ltd.



Thank you!  It was a lot of fun.  Looking forward to the next one!

– Siân Proulx, Director of Training & Business Operations, Canadian First-Aid Training


We are very pleased to be a part of such a great Forum for Girls and of course, to be a part of Manitoba Women in Construction.

– Anita Bihun, CFO, Western Safety Sign Co.


Thanks so much for the excellent day of learning and experiencing for our LRSD students at General Vanier and Frontenac Schools. The Unlocking the Toolkit Girls Forum was a thoroughly engaging experience for the students. I’ve never seen so many students lean in at the same time to connect with the facilitators. All hands-on. Pure engagement. Well done.

The students have expressed nothing but excitement for the experience. You have changed how students perceived these professions, many of them male-dominated, and the facilitators modelled that chasing any dream is all very possible.

Keep up the great work!

Adriano Magnifico, Career Development Consultant, Louis Riel School Division


Yes, outstanding job!! Thanks for all your time and for providing a great learning opportunity for our students.

– Steve Proskurnik B.Ed., PBDE, Career Development and High School Apprenticeship Support Teacher, Sunrise School Division


Just wanted to say a huge congratulations to Carla, Teri and Kelly on the huge success of yesterday’s event! It’s really amazing to see how the event has grown and evolved.

Thank you so much for volunteering your time, coordination and hard work to make yesterday such a great experience for our students. I know that each and every girl that participated was impacted by the strong role models, the empowering messages and their future possibilities.

Cat Westlake, Apprenticeship/Career Development, River East Transcona School Division





The Unlocking the Toolkit girls’ forums are key in providing grades 5 and 6 girls with an opportunity to learn about the rewarding careers that are open to them in the non-traditional trades and in science, technology, engineering and math.

I am impressed by the work that the Winnipeg Construction Association and Manitoba Women in Construction have done. This event is a valuable opportunity for girls and it was my pleasure to attend this year.

Thank you for the contribution you are making to the advancement of girls in Manitoba.

Minister – Responsible for the Status of Women