New program encourages women to study trades

Thursday 9 April 2015

Members of the Women in Trades Support Network at their Barefoot Bowls meeting and social event.

Swinburne University of Technology has launched the Women in Trades Support Network, which encourages females to get involved in what have traditionally been male-dominated trades, whilst providing ongoing support and mentorship for women throughout the duration of their Vocational Education and Training (VET) course.

With approximately half of all apprenticeship contracts in the trades not completed, the support network aims to increase enrolment and retention of females undertaking apprenticeships and trade-related VET qualifications at Swinburne.

The manager of the program, Linda Kearley, hopes to see the Women in Trades Support Network become a community group that members are able to run themselves.

“We truly want the Women in Trades Support Network to be able to stand alone, as they’ll know more than anyone what other females in the group are experiencing.

“Women should be given every opportunity available to learn a trade, so we’re trying to make sure they’ve got the support to keep at it if things ever get difficult.”

In Australia, women represent 45.6% of the total workforce, but they are significantly underrepresented in the Construction and Electrical industries with only 12% and 24% of the total workforce being women, respectively.

Swinburne 2014 Apprentice of the Year and fitter and tuner Melinda Lethbridge has a first-hand experience of studying in a male-dominated field, and has become a mentor in the Women in Trades Support Network.

“I faced plenty of challenges when I first started my apprenticeship, and I want to make sure every woman entering a trade feels like she has the tools and support to succeed in any field she likes.”

The Women in Trades Support Network currently has ten members from Swinburne’s Croydon and Wantirna campuses, and they are hoping to see numbers grow as they seek more mentors and community support for the group.

For more information, contact swinburnestart@swin.edu.au.