Increasing number of Australian women putting up their hand to work in trades

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Third-year carpentry apprentice Emily Bailey cannot imagine spending her life sitting behind a desk.

The 20-year-old from Rockhampton in central Queensland is one of thousands of Australian women at the forefront of a change rippling through a traditionally male-dominated industry.

National data from Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) reveal Australian female construction apprentices just like Emily Bailey more than doubled in the last decade.

In December 2020, the number of female construction apprentices was 2,929, compared to 1,361 in 2010, an increase of 115 per cent.

The overall number of women in construction roles increased by 34 per cent in five years, from 44,583 in 2015 to 59,587 in 2020.

Compared to the men, however, women still represent a fraction of the 1.2 million-strong workforce.

Ms Bailey dreams of owning her own carpentry business one day, but is focusing on completing her four-year apprenticeship in Rockhampton.

“I’ve always really loved working with wood … working with my hands,” she said.

“I really enjoy the job. Being able to put my name to something at the end of the day, having a homeowner be happy with my work … it’s great.”

Females ‘rare’ onsite

In regional Queensland, Ms Bailey said female colleagues were still few and far between.

“It’s pretty rare to come across any other females on a trade site,” she said.

“But it’s always pretty uplifting seeing other girls giving it a go.”

CSQ Research Director Robert Sobyra said electricians and civil construction workers had shown the highest growth in female participation.

“We’ve still got a long way to go … But this is a real trend that has been going on for 10 years,” Mr Sobyra said.

“We don’t think that is going to change, we think we are on the right track.”

Mr Sobyra said the CSQ had observed more women changing their perceptions of career options, thanks to early exposure to trades in school.

“These days in schools, females and males are treated equally in terms of the career paths they are exposed to,” he said.

‘Don’t hold back’

The building and construction industry generates more than $360 billion in revenue and produces approximately 9 per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product, according to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC).

Warren Hale, from the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, said there was an increasingly high demand for apprentices of all genders across the country.

“There’s actually been an increase of 52 per cent of Australian apprentices, in comparison to the same period last year,” he said.

“Electricians and carpenters — more women have been going into those roles.”

Emily Bailey said it was heartening to see so many other women put up their hands to work in trade.

“I’d say… go for it. Don’t hold back,” she said.

“If it’s something you want to do, do it.

“It’s only going to make your life better.”

By Laura Mayers (Original ABC Article)

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