From pilots to electricians, trades are desperate for more women

  • 23/08/2017

The number of women signing up for a traditional trade has nearly doubled over the past five years to more than 11,000, but the industry is still crying out for more.

Now the national body for industry training and apprenticeships says more must be done at every level, from schools to workplaces, to highlight the opportunities available for women and encourage them to follow their interests.

"A lot of people have a pretty narrow idea about carpenters and plumbers and electricians but actually across Earn and Learn... there's an enormous range," Industry Training Federation chief executive officer, Josh Williams, told Newshub.

In fact, there are more than 140 trades and services in New Zealand and thousands of jobs on offer. The Federation's annual Got a Trade? Got it Made? Week showcases some of the opportunities and success stories.

"We are really celebrating and highlighting lots of young women that are making a really successful career in lots of trades that women have not traditionally been a part of," Mr Williams said.

The number of women signing up to be pilots is increasing, almost triple what it was in 2011, while the number of female sparkies has increased six-fold - bringing them up to 2 percent of workers.

One of them, Winnie Rawiri-King, is now a registered electrician with her sights set on becoming a manager - so she can help others coming into the industry.

"[There was] no student loan, you're coming out of the trade in three years with a ticket that you're going to have for life."

Apprentice automotive technician Casey Mead says it isn't a big deal being in a predominantly male industry. In fact, she says the environment has been extremely welcoming.

"I love the diversity that no day is the same, there's constantly new cars coming in, new models."

 Apprentice automotive technician Casey Meads
Apprentice automotive technician Casey Meads Photo credit: Industry Training Federation

Women like Casey and Winnie are "breaking new ground for others in those industries", Mr Williams said.

He believes it's very important that young women still in school get told these types of jobs exist for them.

And it's not just the traditional trades where women are needed - the tourism and services sector is also booming.

Sarah Collins is a tour guide at Hobbiton. She says she's been given the chance to step into more senior roles while working there.

"Always look for those opportunities, always put your hand up," she said.

Trades can offer that all important flexibility for women. Youth worker McKenzie Tuala-Pine says training in a trade allows her to raise her daughter at the same time. She encourages people to "go with your heart" when it comes to choosing a future.

"There are heaps of different influences in your life which can dictate where you want to go. But the one you choose is the most important," she said.

"Because at the end of the day, it's you who's going to complete it or not."

Mr Williams says young Kiwi women still at school should be learning more about the different trades they could jump into - and that life doesn't have to be university or bust.

From pilots to electricians, trades are desperate for more women
Photo credit: Industry Training Federation

"We're trying our best to make sure young people 16 and 17, still at school doing NCEA and wondering what they are going to do next, understand and know they can get into industry training and apprenticeships," he said.

"[There are] lots of occupations where you can also earn and learn so you are working in a job but you are also training towards qualifications, you are not paying student fees, you are not gaining student debt.

"It's not just about getting your first job; it's about taking that first step to a whole wide range of careers."

His view is supported by Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Louise Upston.

"These jobs are some of the highest paying opportunities available and we should absolutely be communicating this to both parents and young people."

Mr Williams says those doing the hiring also need to be open minded.

"In this time when we have so many skills shortages... it doesn't make any sense to only look at half the possible people that could come into those roles.

"We need young women to apply, and we need employers to be thinking more broadly about how it is that they are going to get the skills that they need to run their businesses and keep their industries going."

Got A Trade? Got it Made Week! celebrates the 148,000 apprentices and industry trainees making a difference every day. To find out more about what's on offer, visit Got a Trade? Got it Made! Week.

This article has been created for the Industry Training Federation.

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