A mobile trade workshop travelled to Orange on Thursday to sharpen the tool skills of Women’s Shed attendees.
Supporting and Linking Trades (SALT) provides advice to tradeswomen, apprentices and women seeking to work in the trades, through practical lessons and information sessions across Australia.
SALT facilitator Fi Shewring became a tradeswoman as a mother of five in her thirties to supplement her boyfriend’s income.
“He wasn’t making enough to pay for us all so I went to work with him,” said Ms Shewring.
Now teaching at TAFE, Ms Shewring said she is the only female full-time painting and decorating teacher in Australia and she wants to see more girls considering trades as career paths.
“We’re not telling girls ‘you have to do a trade’ we’re telling them ‘you can do this if you want to’,” she said.
“We believe that by empowering women with these skills we are giving them more autonomy in deciding their future.”
SALT worked with Sydney Trains recently in its attempts to diversify its workforce.
“When they originally advertised their new positions they had 15 female applicants,” she said.
“After working with us that number grew to 130 women applying for work – that was just getting the message out there that these roles exist for women.”
Charles Sturt University’s Dr Elizabeth Wulff and Dr Donna Bridges said gender roles are more rigidly upheld when it came to work in regional areas, which is an area of focus for their current research.
“We came to the workshop because we’re interested in resilience, our study shows a lot of women enter trades and leave – so why do the women here stay?” Dr Wulff asked.
With the assistance of the SALT facilitators, the resilient tradies of the Women’s Shed created a timber cutlery caddy, which required 11 different tools and a broad understanding of operating power tools.