The program format and objectives have continued to evolve, in response to solicited feedback from students and teachers, from program resource staff and steering committee members; to current feminist research; and to the systemic barriers that continue to persist within the educational system.
The Nature of the Program
Here Today... Where Tomorrow? direction and philosophy is based on previous experience with the Women Into Trades and Technology programs. While exploring methods, tools and materials associated with various trades and technical occupations, girls are encouraged to tinker, to verbalize and share their experiences, to trust their intuitions, to be reflective, to assume leadership roles, and to incorporate observations into developing theoretical perspectives. This integrated, activity-centered approach respects what we have discovered about the ways in which most females learn best. Carol Brooks' interpretation of Sandra Segal's research about "relational learning" has been a significant resource in the development of the programs (1).
From the beginning, the project resource staff hoped that Here Today... Where Tomorrow? would become an integral component within school curricula. Unfortunately, most school personnel seem satisfied with a one-shot annual event organized and delivered by an external agent. It was also hoped that parents' awareness of career alternatives for females would be heightened through participation in a specially planned evening program. The poor response discouraged any subsequent programming for parents. Regardless, we feel that parents are a critical influence in supporting their children's career exploration and always maintain an open door for parental involvement in Here Today... Where Tomorrow?
The Changing Process
Many factors have contributed to changes with the program. These include: increased demand for participation; facility limitations including the availability of physical resources; conflicting and busy schedules of participating school systems; transportation; financial resources; availability of resource staff; and in-school support.
The infrastructure has become more formalized to include a Steering Committee of sponsoring partners: representatives of participating school boards, Teachers' Association, local colleges, local business and industry, a local Canada Employment Centre, and Community Industrial Training Committees. A permanent coordinator position was established in the third year to facilitate program planning liaison, continuity and implementation.
In response to demand, the number of participants has increased from 100 to 600, and the number of days over which the event is held from one to six. Schools select team members to attend and each team is accompanied by an adult, most often a classroom or a learning resource centre teacher. In the second year of the program, secondary students requested involvement and as their participation increased over the years, it became evident that a different experience was needed for each panel. In the fifth year (1990), a special day was set aside for high school students, who by then represented one-sixth of the total registration.
As students come from both rural and small urban communities within the catchment area of the college, their interests, experiences, expectations and aspirations differ significantly. These differences reflect what are the unique characteristics of any community. Unfortunately, designing a singular event to accommodate this important reality has met with varying degrees of satisfaction on the part of participants and organizers alike. Moreover, a system has not been developed to follow up locally any interest generated on the part of students attending the event at the college. In fact, there is currently no way of measuring the "success" or influence of the program.
Feedback indicates that the college site is a more relevant exposure for high school students and most elementary students relate more readily to their forthcoming high school experience. Initially, providing a central location with facilities and resources which' were unavailable in most schools was a significant factor in transporting students to the college for the day's program. However, as secondary schools become interested in attracting students and their technical departments are upgraded, feeder school linkage becomes increasingly important. The local high school has a vested interest in actively pursuing elementary school students but much encouragement is needed to formalize this relationship at the school level.