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‘Empowering’ Conference Introduces Vt. Girls to Range of Career Opportunities

by Jillian Scannell


This story was originally published by NECN. Reporter Jack Thurston joined VWW at Women Can Do 2022, Vermont’s one-day career exploration conference for high school girls and gender-expansive youth. 

NECN | October 6, 2022

By: Jack Thurston

The Women Can Do conference is organized by Vermont Works for Women

High school girls from across Vermont had an opportunity Thursday to check out a wide range of career fields in a hands-on way.

Vermont Works for Women, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic justice by advancing gender equity and supporting women and youth during career exploration, held its Women Can Do conference at Vermont Technical College.

Several hundred girls and gender-expansive youth got up close and personal with professionals working in fields like welding, excavation, and highway maintenance – which have long been dominated by men.

Rhoni Basden, the executive director of Vermont Works for Women, said it is critical for girls and women to see themselves represented in those and other career fields as they plan their educational paths and explore their job futures.

Basden pointed out workers are in demand in the trades right now, and earn good wages.

“Vermont is facing massive worker and labor shortages, along with a growing demand in the construction and trades industries,” Basden told NECN & NBC10 Boston in an interview at the Women Can Do conference. “And women are absolutely an untapped source of potential workers that are motivated, ready, and able.”

Emma LaRock, a junior at Green Mountain Technical and Career Center in Hyde Park, said she plans to go to college to study nursing – another job field where workers are widely needed. However, LaRock said she appreciated also meeting women who are excelling in other interesting job fields.

“There’s a lot of things I never thought I could ever have the chance of looking at, or was intimidated by,” LaRock said. “Being here with a bunch of women is definitely empowering, and shows that we can do everything.”

Fields in science, technology, engineering, and math were also represented at the Women Can Do conference.

Students checked out Spot, a robotic dog, who was representing GlobalFoundries, a microchip manufacturer which has a plant in Essex Junction. That company is actively recruiting employees to boost its Vermont workforce.

Additionally, students could get into a flight simulator from Beta Technologies. That company is designing battery-powered aircraft, from space near the Burlington International Airport. Beta recently announced an expansion to St. Albans, in a move that is expected to mean hundreds of openings for skilled workers there in the coming years.

Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, proclaimed October “Careers in Construction Month,” emphasizing the need for workers to fill positions in the construction sector.

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