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Students Building a Dream for their Future Careers

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Students, parents and caregivers packed the Bingemans Conference Centre in November 2022 for the first in-person Build a Dream Career Discovery Expo in Waterloo Region since before the pandemic.


Nour Hachem-Fawaz is the president and founder of Build a Dream, which aims to promote opportunities for women and those who identify as women in a number of fields:


  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM)

  • Skilled Trades

  • Emergency Response

  • Entrepreneurship

  • Leadership


“It’s really exciting” to be back in-person, explained Hachem-Fawaz. Attendees had the chance to meet with over 40 exhibitors, showcasing career opportunities and pathways ranging from the local carpenters’ union to Region of Waterloo Paramedics.

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“They get a chance to network with industry leaders and learn more about these different pathways that exist for them,” said Hachem-Fawaz.


For Nour, the best part is being able to see the light-bulb moments for students as they uncover a career pathway that ignites their passion for learning.


“One of the things that I love the most about being here is witnessing their body language, their excitement change in front of our eyes, because they’ve just been exposed to a whole new world,” said Hachem-Fawaz. “That power can never be undone.”


She credits the joint partnership between the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB), Upper-Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) for making the career expo possible. It provides students in these boards with the unique opportunity to connect directly with professionals and employers while learning more about the pathways available to them.


“It takes school board partnerships to make these events happen,” said Hachem-Fawaz. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to tap into the young minds and have parents at the table as they make these really important life decisions.”

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Paige Wassing is in her fifth year at Eastwood Collegiate Institute (ECI), and came to the career expo with a specific future job in mind.


“I’m looking to be an electrician, so my teacher recommended this event for me. I was thinking I could talk to people in the trades, and see what it’s like,” said Wassing.


Her interest in becoming an electrician was first sparked by her experiences in the classroom.


“I took a construction technology class for Grade 11 and 12, and we actually built a life-sized frame with wiring and I got to turn a lightbulb on and charge my phone,” said Wassing. “That was pretty awesome, so that’s what intrigued me.”


Whether you’ve got some idea or no idea what you want to do in the future, you’ll discover something new about the options available to you, she explained.


“I would recommend coming here, because this is really beneficial,” said Wassing. “It was great, I learned a lot.”


Some students approaching the end of their time in secondary school feel worried about what comes next. A unique opportunity like the career expo can help to alleviate this anxiety by providing them a clearer idea of their career interests. This helps to support student well-being, in turn supporting their success in the classroom.

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Ava Carlaw, a Grade 11 student at Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School (WODSS) shared how she felt about having the opportunity to learn more about the career pathways available, and how she can start taking steps for the future now.


“I’m just so happy that this event was available,” said Carlaw. “It made me feel more confident going out after high school, knowing what I can do.”


Apprenticeship and co-operative education stood out for her, as she looks to set herself on a pathway in either the carpentry or welding fields.


“All the vendors that I went to, they all really encouraged co-op,” said Carlaw.


For her, the most interesting part of working in the trades is the ability to be a lifelong learner.


“There’s always room to improve, and that’s what I really like about those career pathways,” said Carlaw.


Nancy Sanchez attended with her daughter, Carlaw, who she explained took the initiative by planning to come out to the career expo. She was struck by how much support is available for students wanting to begin exploring their career options in secondary school, including in the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP).


“Them paying you to go and learn. That surprises me,” said Sanchez. “It’s great that she can start as early as Grade 11.”

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Christine Gervais came out to Bingemans’ with two of her daughters, who moved quickly to try out the tools available at the carpenters’ union booth. Gervais saw clear connections to careers that have run in their family.


“My dad’s a carpenter, he had his own construction company,” said Gervais. “To see them hammering in the nails was pretty fun, they both lit up when they were doing that.”


As her daughters begin to make decisions about what classes and programs they’ll take in secondary school, she hopes this helps them understand just how many options are available.


“I hope it opens up some opportunities for them,” said Gervais.

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David Pope is the OYAP coordinator for the WRDSB, and helped to coordinate the Build a Dream career expo. He was helping students, parents and caregivers to learn more about the options available to students in secondary school. Specifically, he promotes the option students have to take co-operative education, allowing them to experience a career as early as Grade 11.


“Try a career, before you buy a career,” said Pope. “I always think co-op is the most important course you can take, because you are getting to experience something, before you spend a lot of time and money after graduation.”


For those students who are just starting to get an idea of what they want to do after high school, Pope recommends EdgeFactor - an innovative online platform available to all WRDSB secondary students that provides a closer look at a multitude of potential careers.


“It’s like Netflix for career videos,” said Pope. “There are over 3,000 career videos where they’ve interviewed workers, in different careers about what they like and don’t like, how they got into it and what their day looks like.”

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As she reflected on her hope for what students take away from their experience at the career expo, Hachem-Fawaz echoed her desire for all those who attended to understand the sheer number of career options available for women and those who identify as women.


“Just because you don’t think you can, does not mean you should limit yourself from giving it a try,” she said. “That’s something I wish more young women knew.”

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