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Having women in trades has always been an unusual thing to see here in WA. This is very unfortunate as the need for STEM jobs (Science Technology, Engineering & Maths) are increasing. Currently “between 2006 and 2011, it was estimated that jobs requiring STEM skills grew at about 1.5 times the rate of other jobs – by 14 percent compared to nine percent – and that demand for STEM skills is anticipated to continue” (DLGC 2015)

The lack of women in the trades not only affects our local economy here in WA but also the women already in trades as it is proven to limit their career progression. A report published in 2015 called Filling the Pool found, that experience in operation roles requiring STEM skills was regarded as almost a prerequisite to reaching senior roles in most Perth corporate organisations. Women are also massively underrepresented in trades training and trade workforces (DLGC 2015), as women in trades currently represent about 10% of WA apprentices.

Some more statistics show that women make up less than 25% of the workforce in gas, electricity and water services, and even less in construction at 11.7%. What’s even worse is that all of these industries are suffering from a national skill shortage.

So if there is a national skill shortage but many women available to work in these trades why aren’t they? There are many arguments for this whether it be feminine nature, to lack of opportunities for women to take technical or trade subjects at school. All we know though is that women in the trades are uncommon but not unwelcome. There have been many new programs, reports and articles showing the growing interest in women for trades, the below excerpt that was taken from the DLGC website shows this:

The State Government supports girls and women to study STEM and trades-related subjects in their school years, through their vocational education and training (VET) and higher education studies, and to pursue STEM careers and trades.
In 2015, the Premier hosted the first in a series of women’s consultative forums to develop strategies to address issues impacting women’s employment and economic independence. The focus of the first forum was ‘Attracting talent – Promoting Non-traditional Education Paths and Careers to Girls’. Among the forum’s participants were senior representatives of the following organisations:

  • CEOs for Gender Equity
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Chevron
  • Chamber of Minerals and Energy
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Training and Workforce Development
  • Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia
  • Methodist Ladies College
  • Programmed
  • School Curriculum and Standards Authority
  • TAFE
  • Technology and Industry Advisory Council
  • Trade UP Australia
  • University of Western Australia
  • Water Corporation of Western Australia
  • Women in Mining and Resources WA
  • Women in Technology in WA.

A range of initiatives, including the Women in STEM and Trades Pledge, are being implemented to advance the forum’s overarching strategies of ‘promoting the benefits, rebranding, and investing in schools and teachers’.

Launched at the forum, the $1.2 million Expanding career options for women scholarship program provides up to 400 scholarships to encourage women to take up training in traditionally male-dominated industries, trades and occupations where women comprise less than 25 percent of the total workforce. The scholarships are available to women and employers participating in training in more than 170 eligible qualifications.