09/03/2015 - 11:17

Trades must work to woo women

09/03/2015 - 11:17

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Trades must work to woo women
IN LINE: ABN Group second year bricklayer apprentice Rebecca Guest. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Construction is booming across Perth and regional centres, with high-rise developments, new houses and roads contributing to the sector’s growth; but don’t expect to see more women working on site any time soon.

According to the latest construction industry snapshot published by the Construction Training Council, 43 per cent of all of Western Australia’s apprentices are employed by the construction industry.

However, there were only 77 female apprentices, representing only 1.9 per cent of the total construction apprentice workforce.

Seeking to address the issue last week, the state government announced a $1.2 million scholarship program to encourage women into a range of trade and industry areas with traditionally low female participation.

Construction Training Fund executive director Ralph Dawson told Business News while many women were turned off by perceptions the construction industry was unwelcoming to women and could be too physically demanding, many determined women had excelled in the industry.

He said while a small number of women had broken down barriers, the industry needed to better advertise opportunities and increase early support initiatives if it wanted to appeal to a broader base.

To that end, he said training support field officers were actively promoting opportunities for women, targeting year 10 to 12 students through taster courses and mentor programs.

Construction Contractors Association of WA chief executive Chris Fitzhardinge told Business News there was no silver bullet solution to increasing female participation.

“The issue in WA has been the boom and bust mentality and project based approach, whereas if you’re in Melbourne, for instance, firms have been busily churning out apartments and infrastructure at a steady rate for decades,” Mr Fitzhardinge said.

“The initiative by the government is welcomed, but it’s only a small part of the whole spectrum of activity that needs to encourage women in construction.

“The industry needs to change, it needs to promote itself, develop a stable way of operating so it’s seen as a career. It needs to be seen as being safe and it needs to be seen for what it is – it enables you to travel, to open up horizons to other activity.”

ABN Group second year bricklayer apprentice Rebecca Guest (pictured) told Business News despite friends and family initially trying to dissuade her from a career in construction, she had persisted.

“I chose it because I want to build myself a positive future and help those building their first home or even second home,” she said.

Ms Guest said she wanted to stay in construction throughout her entire career and was considering doing additional training in other building trades such as carpentry.

“It’s definitely challenging, but if you have a positive attitude and are willing to push yourself you’ll go far.” 

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