Recently it came to my attention that there are only four female apprentice bricklayers currently in training in Australia.
Four! Nationwide! Wow.
Whilst I knew the numbers would be low I was shocked to hear that it was that low. Admittedly, there are also another six female bricklayers who have completed their training in recent years.
Which raises the question, or questions, as to why so few females are taking on bricklaying?
One of my first blogs was how women can become bricklayers. I am proof that a female can. As I said then, construction was not an option or even discussed when I was at school. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC QLD/NT) Education & Mentoring Committee, just like ABBTF’s Become a Bricklayer program goes into schools conducting Step Out Programs and Try a Trade Day’s, we sow the seed to find our next generation of tradespeople. NAWIC especially sows the seed that a trade background is a viable choice for women and I’m a firm believer the pros outweigh the cons as a tradesperson.
Suzie Walsh is a really interesting example of a woman currently doing her bricklaying apprenticeship in her husband’s business in the ACT and a great believer that women should give it a go. She’d been labouring in the business and learning the ropes for some time on site and had come to bricklaying late, after other careers, at 45 but is thriving on the apprenticeship, especially the offsite training at MBA Canberra, with trainer Brian Lawrence. She’s able to bring her life experience to class as well as back in the business where she’s learned how to do the work well, within her physical capabilities. Her story is here.
Large commercial companies are embracing female tradespeople on their sites - some have quite large numbers. So why have subcontractors for residential builders snubbed even the concept of women on site? I drive around residential construction areas and finding women out there is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Are we still living in the dark ages? Are women wanting to become a bricklayer but are worn down by the age old ‘you can’t do it because you’re a girl’ from family or friends? Or perhaps the support is there from family and friends but employers are not hiring because they are girls? Whilst no one is going to put their hand up to actually say it, discrimination laws, I believe may be a big part of it. Perhaps employer’s partners feel insecure – I’ve certainly come across this in the past.
Or maybe it’s simply that it’s just a sign of the times within the industry – residential construction is down therefore fewer apprenticeships are available?
Maybe it’s a combination of all these reasons. Perhaps it’s none of these reasons and something else entirely. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Surely as an industry we want to grow construction into the future and what better way to do that than to accept men and women as tradespeople.
Stacey Rimene General Manager
Nominations for the 2012 Crystal Vision Awards for National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) QLD/NT are open, so get your entries in by Friday 10 August. This year’s theme, Women on the Rise, celebrates the significant achievement made by women within construction and the increasing success being demonstrated by them within the industry. There are 13 different award categories available. The awards will be presented at a gala dinner on Friday 19 October 2012 in the Plaza Terrace Ballroom at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
As the 2012 winner of the Arup Award category for Achievement as a Business Woman (Small Business), I encourage all women in bricklaying to nominate themselves for an Award. The Crystal Vision Awards program runs in all States and details are available at the NAWIC website. It’s important to be proud of what you have achieved in your work. By recognising the skills, courage and innovation possessed by you, nominating yourself also sends out a positive message and inspiration to the next generation of young women who want to move into the construction industry or move up within it. It encourages more women to think about construction as a viable and rewarding career choice, and as you and I both know bricklaying is definitely this!
The award categories epitomise NAWIC’s core objectives of encouraging and supporting women along with recognising that within the industry lies a vital, dynamic and progressive group of women dedicated to the betterment of construction. Now in its fourteenth year, The 2012 Crystal Vision Awards will be judged by a panel of industry experts independent of NAWIC and will cover 13 categories:
|1.||BMD Constructions Crystal Vision Award for Advancing and Furthering the Interests of Women in the Construction Industry|
|2.||Hutchinson Builders Award for Achievement in Design|
|3.||Arup Award for Achievement as a Business Woman (Small Business – 250 staff or less)|
|4.||Cement Australia Award for Achievement in Marketing, Community Engagement and Communication Excellence|
|5.||Civil Contractors Federation Award for Achievement in Construction (Civil Works)|
|6.||Department of Housing and Public Works Award for Achievement in Construction (General Building)|
|7.||John Holland Award for Achievement as a Business Woman (Large Business- 251 staff or more)|
|8.||Queensland University of Technology Award for Innovation|
|9.||Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Office for Women) Award to a Young Achiever|
|10.||Construction Skills Queensland Award for Contribution in Building and Construction Trades|
|11.||Leighton Contractors Award for Achievement in Sustainable Development|
|12.||Construction Training Centre Award for New Beginnings Recognition|
|13.||Achievement in the Construction Industry by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Woman.|
It is good to know that ABBTF support the NAWIC awards and their Victorian Manager Jane Alexander is a past recipient of a high commendation in Victoria.
Stacey Rimene, General Manager, BBC Homes
As Membership Chair of QLD National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and General Manager of a residential building company I’m an avid promoter of bringing new blood into the construction trade. With the downturn of the industry last year and the slow climb out, it’s not surprising young people are concerned about a future in the trades. It’s hard to convince high school students to get into a trade apprenticeship because we can’t promise there’s a job out there for them at the end of their training. I am currently helping two girls - one on the Sunshine Coast and one on the Gold Coast who have their heart set on being a carpenter (I told them bricklaying is better!). Luckily as all our homes are built on the Gold Coast my carpenters have taken on one of the girls. However, Sunshine Coast is proving a lot harder with the lack of work currently in the area.
Now, during the downturn, is actually the perfect time to take on apprentices – the time is there to concentrate on giving them quality training time and preparing them for the next boom. It makes good business sense.
However, the last eight months I have had countless calls from experienced tradies looking for work. The calls haven’t seemed to have slowed down – I’ve had five bricklayers ring me in the last 4 days, (mid March). Many callers are subcontractors who have apprentices working for them and want work to keep the apprentices going. Their focus is rightly placed on retaining the apprentices they have.
As an industry during these times I believe we need to do what sub-contractors are doing – focus on retaining the apprentices in the system already. We have a precious resource in the apprentice, especially as experienced bricklayers start to retire. Until the residential industry ramps up again we need to focus on keeping our apprentices going so we don’t lose them forever. Whilst I know some construction companies are seriously impacted by the downturn I believe that we will feel it more if we don’t do something now to retain our apprentices.
With all of my staff over the years in the office, as part of their training they had to spend time out on site with the Senior Supervisors. This helped them gain a better understanding of what they do in the office and how it can affect those out on site. This is something we should be getting our apprentices to do... get them into the construction offices during the downturn to learn how the office runs and the amount of hard work that goes on within. By doing so it also opens up the idea of future career options for the apprentices – check out the success stories of bricklayers and what they have gone on to achieve in the Become a Bricklayer - About Bricklaying tab.
As this website says ‘having an apprentice makes good sense’ both now and in our future.