Steel-toe-capped boots, safety glasses and hi-vis jackets don't sound like your usual girls' school uniform, but it's just a typical Thursday for these young West Auckland women.

The schoolgirls are putting the finishing touches to a wooden shed they've built.

They are the first cohort of what is being billed as the first all-girls trades academy in Auckland - a partnership between three West Auckland schools and Unitec to get more girls into trades.

Girls from Kelston Girls College, Green Bay High School, and St Dominic's Catholic College travel to Unitec every Thursday to learn carpentry, electrical or hospitality skills.


It's an opportunity to make the most of the construction sector boom, says carpentry lecturer Angus Robertson - and a way to close the gender pay gap.

The 20-week course is now giving 22 girls a basic grounding in carpentry or electronics, and it is considered a "pre-trade" qualification, he said, leading to apprenticeships in traditional trades, or for students to go into project management, quantity surveying or engineering courses.

"Lots of opportunities are open to them," he said.

Juliane Pesamino, 18, from Kelston Girls, said she had enjoyed the course, which had taught her how to measure and how to use a hammer and nails.

"It's been a really cool experience," she said. "Today's our last day and I'm going to miss it. I've made heaps of friends."

She's already landed herself an apprenticeship in boat building.

Rebecca Scotting, 16, from Green Bay High, said she decided to take the course because she enjoyed woodwork, and hopes to go into furniture creation and design.

The trade academy comes in handy, she said.

"At school I do woodwork and mechanical engineering and this class helps so much, especially with my theory work."

Upstairs in the electrical course, Taku Amuia, 18, from Kelston Girls, was busy wiring an appliance plug.

She had learned a lot, she said.

It had opened her eyes to being an electrician "because I like wiring stuff".

Kelston Girls principal Linda Fox said girls had been "missing out a wee bit" in opportunities in the trades. "It's tended to be seen as a male thing, but it's not ...

"The pay, the opportunities - [construction] is a growth industry and why shouldn't they have that opportunity?"

The school was really happy with how the trade academy had gone this year, she said.

Nick Sheppard, dean of innovation and development at Unitec, said the course was developed after feedback from industry "telling us they would like a greater number of female graduates".