Males still outnumber female tradies

Males still outnumber female tradies

An automotive spray booth may not be the most obvious workplace for a woman, but their attention to detail and eye for colour make them ideal for the profession, spray painter Alex Roy says.

Ms Roy is one of an increasing number of women who has chosen to pursue a career in a traditionally male-dominated trade through CIT.

Vehicle spray painter Alex Roy's love of cars and art led her to a career in the traditionally male-dominated field.

Vehicle spray painter Alex Roy's love of cars and art led her to a career in the traditionally male-dominated field.Credit:Jay Cronan

There are 96 females enrolled in trade courses including automotive, plumbing, electrotechnology, carpentry and commercial cookery, a 52 per cent increase since 2012.


But while a skills shortage remains, nationwide women accounted for only about 9.6 per cent of the total number of people employed full-time as technicians and trades workers between August and September this year, labour force statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal.

Trades are not the only industries where gender parity remains an issue with the Next Big Deal report issued this week indicating the property industry has a divided and disjointed approach.

The report found if the industry pursued gender diversity with the aggression and focus it devoted to closing deals, the benefits could be "substantial", based on interviews with executives from about 15 real estate investment trusts, property groups, engineering and construction companies and agents.

Ms Roy said she was fortunate to find an employer, Hume Bodyworks, who could see the benefits women could bring to the workplace, but admits it was initially difficult to find an employer willing to take her on as an apprentice.

"A lot of the preconceptions that women are not capable of doing [male dominated trades] need to be abolished … it's just like males can be a hairdresser," she said.

When she began her certificate she was the only woman in her class at CIT, but for someone who was brought up around cars it was an obvious choice.

"I didn't like the idea of just a desk job, 9 to 5," she said.

"I always had a thing for art and colour … so I think being a spray painter combined the art and colour with the love of cars."

Although there are several women working towards their apprenticeships at CIT now, Ms Roy said she was yet to meet another female spray painter.

"There are still a lot of girls who have no interest in it, but I also think some are hesitant even to try if they are interested because of the connotations that it's a male-orientated job and discrimination," she said.

Although spray painting was a "reasonably" physical job, Ms Roy said it should not be a deterrent for young women getting into trades.

Like women working in other industries Ms Roy has found juggling work and study with family a challenge and believes more needs to be done to help women working in trades who have to leave earlier in their pregnancies than women in office jobs.

"I took two years off halfway through my apprenticeship to have my first daughter and I've had to leave again for the next one," she said.

"There's not really anyway of simplifying it unless you could do all your theoretical [apprenticeship] stuff while you were on maternity leave."

CIT's trade skills and vocational learning director Fiona Mitchell said she began her own career with a cookery apprenticeship 25 years ago and was one of only three women who graduated.

"It's nice to see things have changed through changes in industry/employer relationships and people standing up and saying 'this is a career I'm passionate about'," she said.

She said the challenge remained to break down perceptions about the value of apprenticeships and trades and support students who may need extra numeracy and literacy skills to tackle their chosen field.

But greater numbers of females teaching trades was helping give women "inbuilt" mentors.

CIT will highlight women in trades at a networking event on Thursday.

Clare Colley is Head of Audience Engagement at The Australian Financial Review. She was previously an online editor, arts editor and journalist at The Canberra Times.

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