Veronica White is a founding director of Destination Trades, an organisation that aims to increase the participation of women in the construction and infrastructure industries of NZ.
If you are old enough you will probably recognise this advertisement from the 1980s and even if you aren’t you will probably identify with the message. You might be interested to learn that it has been more than 40 years since this advertisement ran and despite the encouraging message, very little has changed in terms of women’s participation in the Construction and Infrastructure Industries. Women comprised 1% in 1972 and they still only comprise 1% in 2016 of these highly paid, high demand, male-dominated trades and jobs. You may have seen pictures of women in hard hats and statistics that suggest greater numbers of women are participating, however when you strip out the office jobs and project management or professional engineering jobs and look at the trades it shrinks away to a slender 1%. And this is alongside unprecedented demand for heavy vehicle operators, builders, plumbers, electrician, scaffolders, roofers … and the list goes on. The shortfall of workers is expected to get worse given the average age of workers in the Industry of 58 and aging by the day. So what is going on that this hasn’t shifted? And what can we learn from other countries?
First, there are women who are interested in these jobs and many of them are currently employed in offices and call centres and not enjoying it. The prospect of working outside, building something, being physically active and earning good money appeals to these women. But, like their male counterparts, they need to learn some specific skills to enable them to be productive and effective in these environments, and they are keen to have other women helping them work through issues that do arise. When you meet women doing some of these jobs you cannot help but be impressed by their energy and enthusiasm; they love what they are doing!
We went looking overseas and we found a Canadian company who have been working on this issue for 13 years and they had lots to say when we spent a week with them in September. Women Building Futures is industry driven, focuses on producing candidates that meet what industry wants and they are doing it in the shortest time possible. The industry employers have found women to be safer, more productive, lighter on equipment and more enthusiastic to be doing these jobs. This makes employers like Suncor, Energy Inc, Shell Canada and Mammoet converts to having women on their teams.
Destination Trades is a new venture established to change this situation in Aotearoa. Our purpose is to increase the participation of women in the Construction and Infrastructure industries, enhance the economic security of women and their families, and to provide great employees for these Industries. We are keen to hear from Industry, in particular your needs for apprenticeships and employees who will care about your business and give you a competitive advantage.
Contact Veronica via email