Rikki Harper already has a good idea of what her future profession might be — she'd like to become a marine biologist.
Still, the Grade 9 Lively District Secondary School student enjoyed exploring all of the career opportunities out there during the 11th annual Women of the Future conference May 16.
“You can see what your options are for the future,” she said.
Harper was one of 92 Grade 9 and 10 girls from all four local school boards who participated in the conference, which was held in Laurentian University's alumni hall.
The girls attended sessions on topics such as networking, and had a chance to visit booths from various businesses, organizations and educational institutions.
Participants were also mentored for the day by local women in a variety of professions.
“The purpose of the conference is to give girls, typically in Grade 9 and 10, an opportunity to come and meet with women who are successful in their chosen fields of work,” Rhonda Lakanen, one of the organizers of the conference, said.
“It lets them have a chance to explore careers, learn a little bit more about what career paths are out there, and how they might be able to figure out what they want to do when they're ready to move on from school to the workforce.”
Grade 9 or 10 is a good time to speak to girls about careers, because that's typically when they start thinking more seriously about what they want to do with their lives, she said.
“I don't think they're necessarily going to make hard and fast decisions,” Lakanen said.
“It's a great opportunity for them to figure out what's out there and figure out some people to contact in the future if they want to explore some things a little bit further.”
She said the girls participating in the event this year seemed to be “really engaged and getting a lot out of the experience.”
Sudbury Living Magazine editor Vicki Gilhula was one of the women acting as a mentor during the event.
She said she thinks it's important for students to have role models other than their parents and their teachers, as they get an idea of what other jobs are out there.
“I told them it's important to have passion about whatever you do,” Gilhula said. “You need to really love it. Sometimes the money is there, and sometimes it isn't, but if you love what you do, it doesn't really matter.”
Sharon Murdock, who retired as the executive director of the Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce Planning Board in December, also acted as a mentor during the event.
The mentors were asked to fill out a list of the jobs they've held during their lifetime to stick to their name tags.
Murdock's list is extensive. Besides her 16-year stint as the executive director of the workforce planning board, she's been a lawyer, a teacher and the NDP MPP for Sudbury.
However, to show that she was once a young girl like those attending the conference, she also included babysitter on her list of past professions.
“I babysat in high school,” she said. “It paid for everything. I bought my own jeans. That was a job, and it held responsibility. You learned transferable skills.”
Murdock said she likes to point out to youth that there are many jobs out there that most people don't even think of.
“Everybody knows about doctors, lawyers, teachers or secretaries,” but there's also jobs such as being a glazier, who installs windows, she said. “They don't think of what kind of jobs are involved in just having windows.”
Grade 9 Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School student Holly Miller, who dreams of becoming a police officer, spoke to representatives of the Greater Sudbury Police Service during the event.
She said she was excited to find out that even before she graduates from high school, she can do a school co-op or get a summer job with the police service.
“I find that really good,” she said.
Shelby Lafond, a Grade 9 student at École secondaire Macdonald-Cartier, who is interested in becoming a police officer or working with animals, said she enjoyed learning about careers without boys around.
“I like it because nobody's going to judge you,” she said. “I feel comfortable with this. We can all share what we want to do and stuff.”
Posted by Arron Pickard