Female students spend a day on the tools, to broaden their career options

Tenterfield High School’s careers advisor Helen Clothier may be looking for a few more local tradies to host work experience students this year with female students enjoying a day on the tools on Monday, March 12.

The workshop run by SALT (Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen) in conjunction with the NSW Department of Education aimed to encourage young women to consider a career in a trade.

The workshop was run by experienced tradeswomen from a range of industries, able to share their real-life experiences. 

“One student is keen to become a motorcycle mechanic, so she had a good one-on-one conversation with one of our members who’s a heavy vehicle mechanic,” program coordinator Fi Shewring said.

The task for the day was to built a personalised caddy that could be used for a variety of purposes, but more importantly required a number of techniques in its construction.

SALT was established back in 2009, and took to the road with its custom-built trailer in 2011. So far the workshops have been conducted at 136 sites across four states, and the response has been good.

“The feedback has been phenomenal,” Ms Shewring said.

“It’s rare to receive a rating from the girls less than eight out of 10. Usually it’s nines and 10s.”

The group receives some funding but there’s a huge volunteer contribution.

“We love bring the workshops to rural areas,” Ms Shewring said.

Over the past decade she’s seen a shift towards more girls considering a trade career and employers are all for it, recognising that diversity in the workplace produces better outcomes and working environments.

“We want to broaden what young women think of as a career. They’re likely to need to work, so they may as well enjoy it and earn good money. They should be engineering a career path.”

In addition to the school workshops the SALT team also works with community groups and has had attendees aged two to 96. Ms Shewring has noted that older women in rural areas tend to be more hands-on.

She herself embarked on an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator with five small children in tow, finding an outlet for her previous passion as a potter producing ceramics. She’s now TAFE’s only full time female painting/decorating teacher. 

Even those not interested in pursuing a trade have much to gain from the workshops, she said.

“Learning to use tools is a big advantage. It’s a life skill.”