Female tradies taking the lead

24 December 2015

Young women are starting to make their mark in traditionally male dominated fields, with the likes of Michelle Payne winning the Melbourne Cup and young tradies such as Karly Tapner-Gillies, this year’s recipient of the Rose Curtis Award at the recent Plumbing and Fire Industry Awards.

The Rose Curtis Award celebrates a female apprentice or professional who has excelled in the trade. This award encourages women to not only continue in the plumbing trade, but to achieve in this field.

As a first year apprentice, Karly Tapner-Gillies, of Clyde in Victoria, is paving the way for young women in the plumbing industry. In her first year out of high school Karly scrapped the idea of pursuing a university degree in accounting and made the bold decision to become a plumber – and she’s never looked back. Karly is currently doing her training with the Master Plumbers Registered Training Organisation.

“I knew I wanted to be a tradesperson, and plumbing stuck out to me because it was a well-respected trade that’s always developing and one that’s recognised worldwide,” said Karly.

“I enjoy learning new things and the technicalities of the job. It also provides work opportunities around the world.”

When asked what it takes to be a good plumber, Karly said you have to be willing to continuously learn and not be switched off to the new options and advancements in the industry.

The word is slowly starting to get out about the opportunities for women in the trades with the ability to work your own hours, be financially confident and be presented with a range of different career opportunities in the industry. 

“Females are realising they don’t have to sit in an office or do the norm.  It’s becoming more well-known that women are capable of doing it and there’s more equality among the sexes in the industry.”

“The guys are really accepting and if you are willing to learn they are willing to help,” adds Karly.

Today, women are increasingly more likely to take up a trade as a career. According to an ABS survey of Education and Work, males were much more likely to be employed as a trade apprentice than females in 2005, with six males for every female. But by the last census collection in 2011 data showed the rates of women in trades were increasing with 1432 female electricians, 676 female carpenters, 931 female motor mechanics and 638 female plumbers across Australia.

The number of women in vocational training has also risen by 80 per cent since 2008; in 2012, 251,900 women took part in government-subsidised vocational training, compared with 139,800 in 2008.

A $1.2 million scholarship program was announced earlier this year by the WA Government to try and encourage women to take up a trade and to provide an incentive for business owners to take them on as apprentices.

WA Training and Workforce Development Minister Liza Harvey said she had spoken with women who had graduated apprenticeships starting on $80,000 and then gone on to start their own businesses with flexible working arrangements.

"There are so many opportunities. The tide has turned and there are companies desperate to engage female apprenticeships," Ms Harvey said.

Within the field female tradies are shown to have a strong sense of determination, have an eye for the finer detail and are generally more committed to the job.  Women tradies have also been recognised for their communication skills, punctuality and professionalism.

“I think we take more time, are calmer and look over things more,” Karly said.

Karly’s advice to other women entering the trade: “Choose a trade you will enjoy and are willing to learn.”

Source: The Age


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