Call goes out for more women tradies

By Aimee Shaw

Elizabeth Cruickshank - a former nurse and trainee carpenter at Auckland's Maori and Pasifika Trades Training course. Photo / Manukau Institute of Technology
Elizabeth Cruickshank - a former nurse and trainee carpenter at Auckland's Maori and Pasifika Trades Training course. Photo / Manukau Institute of Technology

Women are being called on to take up a trade to help ease looming skills shortages in New Zealand's building and construction sector.

Hawkins Group general manager of corporate affairs, Nancy McConnell, said success in the trades sector was now no longer dependent on physical strength, despite common misconceptions.

"In the past, heavy machinery really was heavy machinery, but that's not the case today. Many women make incredible operators and tradespeople," she said.

In 2013, tradeswomen made up just 5 per cent of all tradespeople.

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"Construction has traditionally been described as a tough environment, but I'd actually describe it as a team environment," McConnell said.

Recently there has been a push for more Maori and Pasifika women to join the trades industry.

Maori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) Auckland project manager Kirk Sargent said the trades sector had traditionally been male-dominated, but hoped the number of tradeswomen would jump to 40 per cent within four years.

"The good news is that's starting to change and we're seeing a growing number of women finding success as carpenters, electricians and plumbers, for example," he said.

Some people say building's a man's thing. But it's so weird that we've made it manly to hammer a nail into a wall. Anyone can do that.
Trainee tradeswoman Elizabeth Cruickshank

"Many of the employers we're talking to are keen to get more women on board, and a lot of the women who train with us are thriving."

Trainee tradeswoman Elizabeth Cruickshank, formerly a nurse, said she loved what she does, despite coming across many who didn't want her in the field.

"Some people say building's a man's thing. But it's so weird that we've made it manly to hammer a nail into a wall. Anyone can do that."

Cruickshank said gender stereotypes could make it more difficult for women to do their best work, but says having more women in the industry would change that.

Within the next five years, it is expected there will be $200 billion worth of building projects, creating an additional 12,000 construction and infrastructure jobs forecast for Auckland alone.

Last year, 23 per cent of all people training at MPTT were women.

- NZ Herald

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