Photo: Build a Dream representatives present the Dreamer award to 17-year-old Erica Rossi. Rossi’s winning essay outlined how she wants to use her skills to improve the quality of life for individuals in her community. Photo by Sanja Tabor
Dreamer Day Spotlights the Success that Diversity Brings
By Victoria Rose
Build a Dream has spent four years tackling the numbers that show women are still under represented in many career fields. The local organization empowers female students with programming that spotlights jobs often considered “non-traditional”: skilled trades, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), emergency response, and entrepreneurship. These careers are becoming more favourable not just as awareness grows of the high wages and career stability, in WindsorEssex in particular, it fills a gap.
“We are facing a shortage in skilled trades, a huge shortage,” said Lee McGrath, Director, Business Retention and Expansion, WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation. McGrath was one of several speakers at Dreamer Day, Build a Dream’s inaugural fundraising breakfast held on October 11.
“About 30% of our (skilled trade) jobs are unfilled,” she shared. “Events like this are how we are going to support the region going forward…We need to tap into every member of the workforce in order to meet the requirements over the next 7-10 years.”
The sold-out event included a keynote Q&A with Jordana Strosberg, Global Advanced Technology Communications Manager at General Motors. Strosberg moved to Windsor 15 years ago and helps GM communicate stories about adopting self-driving technology.
Since parents have a lot of influence over career decisions, Strosberg emphasized that caregivers should support their child’s goals as her parents did. The only thing she wished childhood influencers had reinforced with her is not to discount the importance of mathematics.
“Stick with math,” she advised. “That’s something that I gave up earlier in my academic career…that became a little bit limiting as I moved on through post-secondary education.”
In terms of industry, Strosberg said that companies must show people what can be done.
“Focus on strategy. You can’t just hope that your organization is going to become more diverse. You actually have to put programs and strategic thinking behind it to make it happen.”
Strosberg sees these strategies in practice daily; her employer has a Women in Action leadership development program, works with girl-centric charities, and 50% of the board of directors is female. In fact, GM was listed in a 2018 Just Capital report as a standout among the largest companies in the U.S. that are best for women.
Representatives from local industries were on hand to receive some important insights from the event, recognize founders of the movement, and to congratulate local citizens nominated for their contributions to empowering women. Of the ten male and female finalists, Sean Collier and Sheri Lynn Koscielski took home the awards.
Collier’s nomination for Male Community Champion noted that he is a champion of the Build a Dream movement, participating not just as a sponsor but also as a father. He actively works to be a leader that advocates for women in his organization and encourages others to do so.
Koscielski was nominated as a Female Community Champion for her dedication to FIRST Robotics and her work mentoring students in the region. She also created an all-female robotics team that competed at the world championships earlier in the year.
From essays submitted by youth in the Dreamer category (ages 7-17), two winners were chosen. Erica Rossi (17) wants to use her skills to help children with physical disabilities and improve the quality of life for individuals in her city. Rossi wished she had more STEM opportunities when she was younger. Willow Andry (9) wants to be a scientist and a city councilor, acting as a role model and solving community problems. Andry would like to see more volunteer opportunities for young children.
The event concluded with a flag-raising at City Hall as the City of Windsor proclaimed October 11 as Dreamer Day. Guests left energetic and inspired by the movement that encourages young women to look beyond traditional careers. Build a Dream organizers will use the inspiration and support to keep growing the campaign…sharing knowledge, benchmarking best practices, and spotlighting the success that diversity brings.