The buzz of chainsaws, thudding of hammers and screams of police car sirens could all be heard miles away as you entered the Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center last week.

Was the college undergoing a major construction project? Nope. This was, in fact, hundreds of girls from around the state discovering potential career paths in skilled trades and the STEM field at the annual Women Can Do conference.

In its 20th year, Women Can Do is funded by Vermont Works for Women, an organization committed to helping “women and girls recognize their potential and explore, pursue and excel in work that leads to economic independence,” its mission statement says.

Julie Pastore, a Colchester High School counselor, said this was her third year taking students to the conference.

“This is just another way to really expose students to a lot of different options that they might not have access to otherwise,” she said. “[We] saw that there was a lot of interest for students to explore things that were in non-traditional career fields.”

Fifteen CHS students attended the conference and participated in two workshops of their choosing. These ranged from “Wildlife CSI” with members of Vt. Fish & Wildlife to “Denature of Forensic Science” where students got to work with a forensic scientist on DNA analysis and firearms IDMost of the workshops were led by women professionals in the skilled trades.

The CHS students ended their day at the Action Expo, which featured hands-on projects like wood carving and car maintenance, as well as an opportunity to climb to the top of a fire engine ladder and explore a working police cruiser.

Julia Correll, Colchester High School sophomore, shows off the wood coasters she made using a chainsaw at the Women Can Do conference. (Amanda Brooks | Colchester Sun)

CHS sophomore Julia Correll dressed in protective overalls and helmet as she used a chainsaw for the first time, sawing pieces of a downed tree branch. She also took a coding workshop earlier in the day, a skill she said she may pursue in college.

Pastore said the chatter on the bus ride home was full of girls talking about their experiences and how they could see themselves seeking these nontraditional career fields, like forensic science and app design.

“The students loved it,” she added. “It’s just such a fun, interactive program and an amazing opportunity.”