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.
General Manager, BBC Homes