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ONLY 10 per cent of women Australia-wide are working in a trade as an apprentice and Peggy Stacey, a first-year apprentice in Canberra, wonders why more women aren’t giving it a crack.
Peggy, 18, of Yass, who works at Master Builders, even drives about 10 hours a week to work in carpentry because she enjoys it so much.
And says her desire to become a carpenter stems from her dream of building her own house one day and being self reliant.
So far, she hasn’t come across any other women tradies on site, which was the same even back in high school when she was the only woman to do woodwork.
“I liked the craftsmanship, getting artistic with it and seeing the finished product,” she says.
But even though the passion was there, Peggy was still “warned” about working on a construction site as a woman.
“They warn you about the harassment you’ll probably get and that guys don’t like having girls on site,” she says.
“But it’s really not like that at all.”
Even though Peggy comes from a family of “fridgies”, who work in the refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic trade, she says her mum was probably the most worried.
But, she says, there’s really not much of a difference between what she does as opposed to one of the guys on site.
Except for when it comes to lifting but she says she gives that a good try, too.
“They make you get in there and have a crack,” she says.
There are times though when she’s on a new site and people will question her capability.
“Everyone’s like, ‘can she do this? Does she know what she’s doing?’,” she says.
“Had a few people ask, ‘are you sure you know what you’re doing?’”
Aside from that, Peggy would say the stereotype about women in trade is “bullshit”.
“Don’t listen to it, just have a crack, get in there and give it a go,” she says.
“I love this job, it’s so much fun and it’s never the same, it’s always different.
“We start from the ground up, so you see everything happen.
“It feels good to be able to see the finishing touches.”
As for Peggy’s dream house, she says she’ll build it when she’s fully qualified. But she’d also like to do a foreman’s course and a dual-trade course in plumbing so she can build her own empire and own her own business one day.
And, to help make sure more women like Peggy give a trade a fair go, Master Builders, after recently receiving an ACT government grant, is launching a “Master Builders ACT Women in Trades Program” to attract more women into trades.
Commercial director of Master Builders Association Liz Nair says there are a number of key researched barriers that are impacting women selecting a trade as a first-choice career option.
“This involves access to: tools of trade and training at a younger age, connections with employers and building supportive networks,” she says.
Currently, Liz says, national data reports only 10 per cent of apprentices are females.
“My aim for this program and outcomes that may follow, is to increase this to 20 per cent over the next three years,” she says.
Liz says the program, which is a four-week pre-apprenticeship program, is designed to provide an experience that will enable a more informed decision for participants.
“The program consists of formal training, site work experience, guest presentations from employers and structured mentoring and coaching sessions from leading ladies of the industry embedded throughout,” she says.
MBA Women in Trades free information session, MBA Fyshwick, 1 Iron Knob Street, Fyshwick, August 1. Register at eventbrite.com.au