Totally Trades! conference inspires girls to explore nontraditional careers

On Wednesday Paige O'Bar created something she never thought she would.

"Not many other people get to have custom made dog tags that they made themselves so that's pretty cool," she said.

She did so at the Totally Trades! Conference at Northern Maine Community College. Now in its fifteenth year, the conference allows 8th grade and high school girls to consider careers in fields that are traditionally dominated by men.

"We just want them to remove gender from the equation today, think more broadly about careers and exploration and activities just to spark their thinking," said coordinator Suzanne Jandreau.

Rachel Drost has known for years that she wants to go into building construction. This event is right up her alley.

"Right now I'm the only girl in my class so it's kind of hard sometimes, but you learn how to do it, you learn to use different muscles you probably haven't used before," said Drost.

Close to 140 girls participated- they came from 16 different schools from all over Aroostook County. They got hands on experience in trades like welding, plumbing and heating, and heavy equipment operation. Sally O'Neal was a truck driver for the Maine Department of transportation 28 years ago, now she's a transportation crew technician.

"We don't take no for an answer anymore. Can't do it? We can do it," she said.

She can, and now these young women know that they can too.