In 2011, there were just 638 female plumbers and 1,432 female electricians registered in Australia, representing less than 2% of the workforce in trade industries. And, despite an increasing awareness of the threat of skilled trade shortages looming with the retirement of baby boomers, there has been little change in the numbers of women entering these trades since the 1980’s.
In period of trade labour shortages and successful government initiatives to boost the numbers of apprenticeships, why hasn’t the industry seen an increase in the number of women entering trades?
Managing Director of Laser Group, Steve Keil believes that the option of trades and apprenticeships as a career choice needs to be promoted from early childhood. “If we are to turn around the current deficit of people taking on apprenticeships and make a career in the plumbing and electrical industries an option for young women, we need to change the dialogue which creates the labour market divisions between women’s and men’s jobs.”.
As Australia’s largest network of plumbers and electricians, the Group has over 1,500 trade qualified employees with over one third currently completing their apprenticeships.
One of these apprentices is 18-year-old, Jade Morris from Sale in East Gippsland.
With her family, friends and teachers support, Jade had wanted to learn a trade for a while, then, after completing work experience with Laser Plumbing Sale, decided that plumbing was the trade for her.
Now employed by Laser Plumbing Sale, and conducting her training with Federation Training in Yallourn, Jade is one of the 2% of female plumbers in Australia and represents the future of trades in Australia.
One year into the apprenticeship, Jade is still to find one skill in plumbing she favours. “I am learning something new every day and am now understanding why things are done the way they are.”
Managing Director of Laser Plumbing Sale, Dan Smolenaars sees hiring women in the trades as bringing new skills to the job.
“Women view jobs differently to men and, onsite, this can be a great asset. With Jade, we assessed her attitude and attentiveness in comparison to other work experience students we had throughout 2015 and found her to be the best cultural fit for our team. Whilst all workers have their strengths and weaknesses, we chose to focus on the strengths that Jade brought which included her willingness to learn.”
Jade’s confidence in the team has continued to increase with her peers also pleased with her progress and ability to learn on the job. “I get treated the same as everyone else on the job which is great”.
It is this experience as well as the support she receives from her co-workers, teachers and family which encourages Jade to motivate other young girls thinking about taking on a trade for a career.
“Go for it, and don’t let anyone say you can’t do it”.
Story courtesy of Laser Group