Valerie Overend was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1953. During the 1990s, Valerie worked as a Red Seal Carpenter on commercial construction projects in the Regina area with the local Carpenters Union. Valerie had never met another woman on a construction site and knew that she wanted to do something to change that situation. She knew that women wanted to work in physical, creative, well-paying jobs but that they were limited by opportunity. She took advantage of her role as a summer instructor and moved into creating other programs for girls and women, maintaining the focus on career exploration in trades and technology. For the next 25 years, Valerie made her living expanding on that role until to her retirement.
In the 1970s, Saskatchewan Women in Trades & Technology (SaskWITT), a provincial organization that promotes and assists in the recruitment and training of girls and young women in predominantly male fields, was established. In the early 1990s, Valerie represented SaskWITT on the Board of the WITT National Network. That organization also developed programs to guide women into careers in trades and technology occupations. Valerie was on the team of WITT instructors from across Canada who met to develop National Standards and Guidelines for WITT programs in Canada. These were updated and revised again near the end of the decade to reflect changes in the landscape of trades and technology occupations. This work was fundamental in the development of curriculum resources that were introduced in all provinces and territories in Canada, many of them still in use.
In 1991, Valerie was approached by the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) to teach summer camps to introduce grades 7 and 8 girls to careers in trades and technology. With Valerie at the helm, SIAST campuses delivered summer Girls Exploring Trades and Technology Camps, GETT Alumnae workshops for high school girls, weekend Kids in the Shop Programs, a Kindergarten project where role models visited 60 classes each year, Women in Trades and Women in Technology Exploratory Programs, Career Fairs and variations of all of these for Aboriginal girls and women.
In 1995, she co-founded the Women’s Work Training Program in Regina, Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Valerie sat on numerous Boards and Committees representing tradeswomen. These include the Saskatchewan Education Council, Saskatchewan Carpenters Trade Board, Saskatchewan Provincial Apprenticeship Board, the Saskatchewan Labour Market Initiatives Committee to the Canadian Construction Association, and the Women’s Reference Group to the Provincial Labour Force Development Board. Nationally, Valerie represented Saskatchewan as a Director of the Canadian Vocational Association, WITT NN, and CCWESTT. Through her involvement with these organizations, Valerie held Director positions with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and the National Women’s Reference Group on Labour Market Initiatives.
Aside from working directly with girls and women, Valerie began to work with employers and unions to resolve some of the barriers that conspired to keep women out of jobs in various industries. She worked both as a private consultant and as a consultant with WITT NN on various Employment Equity and Retention projects throughout the decade. Valerie’s work often involved travel, primarily in Canada. Over time, Valerie worked not only with the Construction Industry but also with Oil and Gas, and Mining Industries. She had contracts in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, and all of the Western Provinces and Ontario. As well, Valerie’s work once took her to Malawi in Africa.
When WITT NN dissolved in the early 2000s, Valerie was invited to work as a consultant to a project by the Canadian Coalition of Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT). This resulted in the formation of the WinSETT Centre, a mechanism established to expand and support women’s participation in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology. Valerie became the Trades Consultant for the organization and worked to establish a pan-Canadian presence among unions, employers, and employer associations through delivery of programs and services.
Valerie has received both local and national recognition for her work. In 1992, she was awarded the Governor General’s 125 Medal for community volunteerism and she also recognized by the YWCA Regina as a Woman of Distinction. In 2005, Valerie received the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal. These awards recognize her dedicated work as a role model inspiring young women in non-traditional fields.