As a little girl, Laura Daniel loved doing puzzles, building things with LEGO, and solving Mensa puzzles with her father. At the age of 10, Laura asked her father what she should be when she grew up. His reply: “You would make a really great engineer someday.”

“That conversation changed my life,” says Daniel, now an engineer with an MBA. “I am the perfect example of how providing someone with information they never even knew was out there can make an incredible impact on their career trajectory.”

“We know that parents play a crucial role in their child’s career decisions and that is why it is important for us to engage with parents first,” says Nour Hachem-Fawaz, President and Founder of Build a Dream. Founded in 2014, the non-profit delivers specialized programs across the province to attract, encourage and empower female students to careers in skilled trades, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), emergency response and entrepreneurship. One of the main programs is an interactive career expo where families can learn about exciting career opportunities while they network with female mentors and employers.

A student gets to try a virtual welding trainer at Build a Dream. Photo by Jacqueline Khalil, JP Photography  

“We want to make sure that certain careers are not overlooked due to perception, misinformation, or simply due to a lack of awareness. So, our priority is to draw parents to our events with their daughters, so they can explore together in a fun way,” says Hachem-Fawaz.

Build a Dream may share similarities with other organizations in that it promotes fields under-represented by females, but it is unique in its creation of a career “pipeline”, connecting parents and youth to education and industry.

“We believe that in order for young women to make informed career decisions and to consider a career such as skilled trades, we need to provide all of the puzzle pieces to help make that larger picture fit together. That means collaborating with school boards, working directly with industry, spotlighting female mentors who can share their journey to success, and setting up hands-on interactive activities. This all happens at one event that opens doors of opportunity for young women.”

Brandy Coulsey, Marketing and Vendor Relations Manager at Next Dimension Inc., fits a student with VR goggles at Build a Dream. Photo by Jacqueline Khalil, JP Photography

This pipeline drew Daniel to Build a Dream first as a mentor, and eventually as an MBA candidate. Recently, while finishing her MBA, Daniel was at a Build a Dream meeting with representatives from EllisDon and was offered a job with the construction services company.

“This opportunity would have never been possible without Build a Dream and their ever-growing network. As a volunteer, I witnessed first-hand how Build a Dream gave parents and young women the opportunity to learn about career pathways previously overlooked. Now I feel lucky that I am whole-heartedly supported by an incredible organization such as EllisDon who is working hard to ensure diversity within their workforce.”

The Build a Dream career photo booth is always a hit with parents their daughters. Photo by Jacqueline Khalil, JP Photography

So how do other young women follow a similar career path like Daniel? Build a Dream offers some suggestions:

  • Attend free events like Build a Dream where a strong network delivers diverse and sincere career information in a fun environment
  • Utilize WEBUILDADREAM.COM (and career websites) to read about mentors and potential career paths
  • Register for Build a Dream hands-on learning camps or request one in your city
  • Consider opportunities like volunteering, co-op, OYAP, and internships that offer a look into potential careers while building valuable job skills
  • Seek advice from your child’s school and guidance counsellors
  • Encourage activities that allow students to build life skills and learn about their strengths and weaknesses (school robotics, public library programs, etc.). Find more ideas on the Build a Dream blog!
  • Be involved and help your child explore a variety of career options; your child will look to you for advice (and acceptance) so be prepared for candid discussions

“Parents play a key role not just in laying the foundation for a student’s future, they are an integral part of our pipeline’s success,” says Hachem-Fawaz. “Involving parents has always been a priority for Build a Dream and will continue to be as we grow.”

Visit WEBUILDADREAM.COM for information on 2019 events near you.

Panelists share career experiences and advice at Build a Dream. Photo by Jacqueline Khalil, JP Photography

What parents say about Build a Dream:

"So many areas that we had no knowledge amazing opportunity for all."

"I felt this venue had many career choices to choose from."

"Many booths set up and lack of information is not an issue."

"It was a wonderful opportunity to be here… we learned so much."


What young women say about Build a Dream:

"I was able to gain extra information on my career."

"It’s great because there are so many people available for me to talk to and get first-hand experience from."

"I was confused with what I should do after high school but I think I found my future career through this event."