Since the 1980s – which is 40 years ago now – women have represented less than two per cent of the Australian trades’ workforce.
It’s a continuing issue that in 2021 – with diversity and equity policies embedded in all types and areas of work, and businesses and organisations – is one that really needs to change.
A more diverse trades' workforce
Working towards a more diverse and representative trades’ workforce, Victoria University Polytechnic recently held a Try a Trade day in partnership with Women Onsite – a program of the Victorian Trades Hall Council funded by the Victorian Government. The mission of the Women Onsite project is to support Victorian women towards apprenticeships or traineeships in historically male-dominated industries.
Assistant Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council, Ms Wil Stracke said the Women Onsite project aims to turn these statistics around.
“Working with partners like VU Polytechnic and running Try a Trade days is a great first step."
A supportive environment for women
“The days give women the chance to get on the tools in a supportive environment, as well as being able to ask questions about what it’s like to work out in the industry from qualified, experienced women tradies,” said Wil Stracke.
Women Onsite supports women to become carpenters, electricians, plumbers, mechanics or any other historically male-dominated trade they might want to take up.
The Try a Trade day at Sunshine campus included three different trades for women to try – electrotechnology, plumbing and cabinet making.
Drones, pipe assembly & pencil cases
Women taking part tried out each trade for two hours and learned from VU Polytechnic teachers and trainers. They also were able to meet and chat with qualified women tradies already working in their respective industries.
For electrotechnology, the women assembled a drone kit and learned how to fly the drone. Trying out the plumbing trade included work on pipe assembly and conducting a pressure test. And, finally, for cabinet making the women constructed a wooden pencil case.
All the participants enjoyed trying out the trades on offer, learning new skills and finding out more about what each trade involves and what it’s like working as a female tradie.
Welcoming & encouraging
A mother who took part in the day, who works in the communications field, said: “The VU Polytechnic teachers were so welcoming and encouraging. I loved having the chance to try the tools and get advice from other women already working in a range of trades.
“It was a great day and has definitely helped me to decide that a career change into electrotechnology is something I want to pursue,” she said.
Jennah, a Speech Pathologist who also took part, said: “I found the morning really interesting. It was great to be surrounded by likeminded people in an inclusive setting. The electrotechnology was hands on, fun and informative. Hopefully a reflection of what’s to come!”
There is still a long way to go to increase the percentage of women that work in the Australian trades’ workforce, but this ground-breaking initiative is already making strides.
General Manager, College of Trades and Engineering at VU Polytechnic, Mark Thomson said the evidence-based approach that Women Onsite is taking to work on this issue and turn it around is inspiring.
“It’s a holistic, big picture approach. They are also consulting with tradies, employers, academics and government to take on board everyone’s issues, ideas and feedback.
Utterly & totally supportive
VU Polytechnic teachers and staff who were involved in the day only had good things to report back from all the women who took part.
“It will be great to see women who try out a trade make the move to a pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship or traineeship, and ultimately start new careers as Australian tradies. At VU Polytechnic we are utterly and totally supportive of that,” said Mark Thomson.
Looking 10 years ahead, hopefully, the two per cent statistic will have changed dramatically, and the Australian trades’ workforce will be more diverse and representative … and all the better for the change.
For more information about women working in trades, please reach out to Women Onsite.