Plumbers' pipe fitters and welders are jobs traditionally associated with men' but a new program is encouraging women to consider a career in the male-dominated sector of manufacturing and trades.
Students from high schools across the Mackay region attended a Queensland Manufacturing Institute (QMI) Women Who Weld event' where more than a dozen teenagers tried their hand at industrial welding for the first time today (Thursday' 20 October).
Held at CQUniversity's Trades Training Centre' the Women Who Weld program aims to build gender diversity in the workplace and address Australia's trade skills shortage by exposing young women to welding.
CQUniversity Campus Coordinator and Whitsunday STEM Challenge Secretary' Leanne Williams said the event was a great way to showcase the study options available locally.
"Whitsunday STEM challenge like to incorporate all STEM fields to ensure young women are aware of not only University but also the various TAFE trade pathways'" she said.
"Welding is a gateway to many job opportunities in the Western Downs flourishing manufacturing sector' where currently 76 per cent of jobs are occupied by men."
Nationally' just over 12 per cent of the engineering labour workforce is female' with the manufacturing workforce in Queensland at 72 per cent male and ageing; more than half are aged 40 or older.
Men (92 per cent) are far more likely than women to be employed full-time in trade and technical roles' with women predominantly employed in clerical and administrative roles or as salespeople.
QMI's Program Manager Jules McMurtrie' whose research shows a 20 per cent increase in female participation in trade pathways as a result of the Women Who Weld program' said businesses are crying out for school leavers keen on jobs like welding.
"98 per cent of the businesses I deal with say they would pay for a young person's higher education in engineering or similar technical degree' if that person committed to a trade pathway in the first instance'" Ms McMurtrie said.
"Employers are after job-ready people with the right attitude and having a trade background often leads to better quality engineers' designers' salespeople or quality controllers because the recruit has a better understanding of how things are produced."
"We need to encourage more students into the trade space. The manufacturing jobs of the future are in global growth areas like design' biomedical' aerospace' defence' marine and even into the new industrial revolution (industry 4.0) where cyber-physical systems like robotics and automation will be populated by more women in the future.
The Women Who Weld program generally only operates within two schools within Mackay' however' this year CQUniversity Trades Training Centre have taken this program on board to ensure more young women in Mackay can be exposed to the welding trade.
The program is proudly supported by global power and technology leader Cummins.
Cummins Mackay Branch Manager said they are committed to advancing manufacturing and engineering opportunities in the regions.
"Cummins is proud to support this initiative that helps develop the skills and talents of young people in the areas where they operate'" Mr Jones said.
"It is especially gratifying to encourage another generation of women to have greater participation in a non-traditional industry and we wish them the very best."
For more information about the Women Who Weld program' visit gatewaytoindustryschools.com.au