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Training first responds to industry recommendations

In a training first, TAFE Queensland has introduced an initiative that sees women in trades gain a network of their peers from their first training block.

A group of apprentices have become the first to participate in a new training initiative at TAFE Queensland which has been specifically designed to support and encourage women pursuing careers in male-dominated industries from the get-go.

The class had apprentices from the construction, automotive, engineering, and electrotechnology trades and was comprised of 15 women in trades out of a total 24 students. The average foundation class had previously seen two to three female students in attendance.

Manager of Apprenticeship Management and Administration at TAFE Queensland - SkillsTech, Sharon Mohr, was the leader in delivering this plan and was passionate about the benefits.

“It meant the women in this class wouldn’t be in the minority. It also created more opportunities for them to connect with fellow female tradies,” Mrs Mohr said.

“I am always in awe of these young women that have chosen to work and train in industries where they are the minority. While things have come a long way there is still many more improvements to be made in this space,” she said.

The Queensland Training Ombudsman, representing the Vocational Education and Training industry of Queensland, in 2022 released its Review of support provided to Queensland Apprentices and Trainees, with a focus on female apprentices in male dominated occupations which made a raft of recommendations aimed to increase the Sunshine State’s apprenticeship completion rates.

The report identified there are still instances where trainees and apprentices, in particular women, are made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the workplace. Seven of the twelve recommendations in the report directly related to improvements for female apprentices and these recommendations were the catalyst for TAFE Queensland developing this initiative.

Apprentices completing the first training block of their trade qualification have, for the last few years, been able to do so with a class consisting of their peers from a range of trades thanks to TAFE Queensland’s initiative to give young tradespeople networking opportunities outside of their own industry.

This is achieved by grouping together the foundational apprenticeship skills including units on health and safety, workplace communication, teamwork, and sustainable practices in the workplace. Now female apprentices will also be able to network with their fellow apprentices in classes with a far higher percentage of women than previously, giving them a more supportive learning environment from the outset.

The increased ratio of tradeswomen in foundation training classes was achieved by prioritising the grouping of women in trades in foundation training blocks, where usually priority would be given to the most immediate training block. Apprentices did not face any adverse implication of waiting significantly longer before the training block and were scheduled within usual time parameters.

This pilot was carried out at the largest trade training facility in the Southern Hemisphere, TAFE Queensland’s Acacia Ridge campus, which sees more than 1,000 trade students daily and leads apprentice training in Queensland for the automotive, construction, engineering, and electrotechnology industries.

Mrs Mohr and her peers at TAFE Queensland are working to continue raising female participation rates in male-dominated trades, with Queensland reporting the second-sharpest increase over the past five years of any State or Territory in female participation in Trade Training, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research's recent report.