NSW government figures show the gap between women’s and men’s apprenticeship and traineeship completions has narrowed significantly in 20 years.
In 1998, there was more than double the number of men completing an apprenticeship or traineeship compared to women. In 2017, there were 1.5 times as many men as women completing an apprenticeship or traineeship.
Tahlia Keen, 18, from Mortdale, left a customer service role at Sydney Airport to become an electrical apprentice with Ausgrid.
«What drew me to [the industry] were the practical and mathematical aspects, I love problem solving and the future is where I think electricity is at especially with renewable energy,» she said.
«Growing up and looking at the electricity industry I didn’t see many women. I’d love for younger girls to look up and see that this is something that they too can do in the future.»
Nationally, the proportion of female apprentices and trainees in the mining industry has increased from 14 per cent in 2008 to 17 per cent in 2017. Hairdressing is a female-dominated trade.
Federal government figures show that more than 90 per cent of trade apprentices overall, are male.
Trade apprenticeship numbers have fallen for males and females in recent years, but the decrease over five years has been sharper for females than it has been for males — 29 per cent for females compared to 15 per cent for males.
Ausgrid Executive General Manager of People and Transformation Hannah McCaughey said the quality of the company’s apprentices and trainees was «outstanding» this year.
«As a woman in a senior leadership role I’m delighted to see that 21 of this class of 28 are women; they will be trailblazers across our business,” she said.
«At Ausgrid we know diversity is a strength and a more diverse workforce can improve safety and innovation. Importantly it will help us better support the communities we serve.»
The four-year apprenticeship program covers traditional areas as well as emerging new technologies including renewables.
Skills and Vocational Education Minister Michaelia Cash said the federal government believes that a vocational education or training qualification «is just as important to our economy as a University degree – and we need a pipeline of skilled workers to fill the Australian jobs of the future.»
«We want a lot more of those skilled trades jobs to be filled by women, and that can only be achieved with fantastic partnerships with industry,» she said.
«We have announced partnerships with several trades organisations to ensure women are encouraged into trades, including a $1.85 million partnership with the National Electrical and Communications Association, to boost numbers of female electricians.
«I also commend Ausgrid for their Bright Spark program where young women are encouraged into trades.»
Ms Cash said the government has committed $1.5 billion to the Skilling Australians Fund to create thousands of new apprentices and trainees and a further $1.5 billion in funding to the states and territories to help with their training systems.
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.