Government outlines gender equality goals to attract more women into trade training and education

The Federal government recent white paper reveals plans to boost numbers of women in trades by offering improved VET study pathways.

Paul Eyers
Paul Eyers

The Federal government aims to boost the number of women working within the construction industry, according to a white paper released late in 2023.

The Working Future: The Australian Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities report sets a roadmap for the future of employment nationwide.

With the building and the construction industry currently facing a critical labour shortage, the white paper unveils plans to increase female representation within the sector.

The report states women are presently ‘under-represented’ in construction, making up 12.8 per cent of the workforce, with only two per cent working within a trade role.

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At the same time, those women who begin pursuing a trade career are more likely to fail their apprenticeship than their male counterparts.

Exploring measures to move more females into VET pathway education

The white paper’s policy ambitions include plans to introduce a national strategy for achieving gender equality, introduce targets for women on major government projects as part of the Australian Skills Guarantee program and introduce measures to attract more female students into VET pathway education.

Additionally, the Women in STEM cadetship and Advance Apprenticeships program has already been extended, alongside the establishment of the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce and investing $2.3 billion in measures to end violence against women.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn says the white paper’s female-friendly policy targets would help the industry attract some of the 486,000 industry workers needed to meet demand in the next three years.

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“Policies that prioritise attracting, recruiting, training and retaining workers in the industry will be vital to ensure Australia’s housing and infrastructure needs can be delivered,” she says.

“Improving the attractiveness of the industry to women presents a massive opportunity to increase the pool of potential workers.”

Female tradies praise policy plans

Wendy Pinch, founder of a women in trades support organisation, The Lady Tradie, says the policy ambitions were “music to her ears”.

She says providing female school students with better awareness of VET pathways and individual trades would help boost both apprenticeship participation and completion rates.

“Most female tradies who fail in the first year do so because they are in the wrong trade,” she explains.

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“We need to help boys and girls learn more about the different career pathways available – so they can decide the right choice for them.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with a singular perspective on the world.