Young women from regional high schools gathered Friday at the Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the Mt. Blue campus in Farmington for the New Ventures Maine introduction to non-traditional careers program. In their choice of workshops, the girls hammered, welded, drove heavy equipment and designed buildings with their classmates. They also learned about non-traditional careers that pay well and are in high demand. Students donned helmets and spark-proof garments to learn different types of welding. Valerie Tucker photo

FARMINGTON — Girls thinking about getting into a career in trades like building construction, plumbing, computer coding, forestry, law enforcement and robotics got hands on experience Friday during a program held by New Ventures Maine.

The organization welcomed young women from regional high schools to the Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the Mt. Blue campus in Farmington for the Totally Trades workshop.

During the morning, students learned about non-traditional careers for women that pay well and are in high demand. Some students already have taken introductory trades classes at their high schools, and all of them can take Foster CTE classes once they reach the 10th grade.

According to Janet Smith, executive director of the Farmington office, the goals of Totally Trades involve teaching students about the financial and personal benefits of choosing a trade or technical career as well as instilling greater excitement in girls who have genuine interest in those careers.

Veda Starbird, a freshman at Mt. Abram High  School in Salem Township, said she already has taken a metalworking class. At today’s event, she tried her hand at masonry and woodworking. She also had a chance in the morning session to learn more about her choices and training after graduation.

“I’m interested in health-related careers, and I’d like to become an emergency medical technician,” she said. “I like being in the action in the field.”


Keynote speaker and workshop leader Rhonda Forrester told students about the job she loves, and she shared her enthusiasm and encouragement with the young women. She said she is passionate about engaging young people in the world of science.

As an engineer with Sevee and Maher in Cumberland, Forrester develops sustainable solutions for projects in landfills, sanitary systems, water supply, stormwater management, and site development.

Forrester holds a bachelor of science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, a masters degree in Water Resources Engineering from Tufts University and a masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern Maine. She also is a Leadership Maine program graduate, and an FAA-certified drone remote pilot.

Engineering careers involve plenty of challenges and require a willingness to explore different ways to solve problems, she said.

“We use math and science to solve a problem, and we also make things better,” Forrester said.

According to Forrester, building something from the ground up requires efficiency, but efficiency is defined by a wide range of factors.  During her classes, she helped students create a their own design for a simple structure, which they created with toothpicks and small marshmallows in different configurations.


Mt. Blue High School senior Kate Holmes volunteered as a Student Ambassador for the day, leading students to and from different workshops. While she waited for each class to end, she used free time to work on her own project, a 3D model of a clearly defined bottom of a Maine lake. She’s also part of a student group planning to build solar panels to site on the Mt. Blue campus.

Holmes plans to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Maine at Orono, but until then she is learning everything she can at Foster CTE.

“We have CAD (computer-aided drafting and design) to make 3D models,” she said. “We can design and make things for other departments here at school.”

This student involvement helped make the day run smoothly.

“We rely on our student ambassadors, from both Foster Tech Center, as well as Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, to help coordinate the day,” said Mary Redmond-Luce, Foster Technical Center’s student services coordinator. “Our students help with the set up, take students to and from the various workshops, stay in the shops to help and then clean up.”

Along with Redmond-Luce, the coordinating committee included Matt Reynolds, Jobs For Maine Graduates instructor; Jan Rackliff and Melissa Williams from Foster Career and Technical Education Center; Monique Poulin, Mt. Blue High School principal; and Janet Smith of New Ventures Maine. Students came from Rangeley, Mt. Abram, Spruce Mountain and Mt. Blue High Schools.

Funding for Totally Trades came from sponsorships, including Verso Paper, GEAR-UP and E. L. Vining.

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