Sparks fly for young women interested in manufacturing and trades careers

21 March 2023

Australia’s ongoing skills shortage in jobs traditionally reserved for men is being targeted with a new school-based program encouraging young women to learn the skills of industrial welding.

Held at CQUniversity's TAFE Trade Training Centre in Mackay this week (20-21 March), the Queensland Manufacturing Institute (QMI) Women Who Weld program saw more than 45 students in Grade 10 participate in a welding workshop.

The two-day program was supported by BMA, Mackay Regional Council, CQUniversity and Whitsunday STEM Challenge, to encourage greater female participation in the male-dominated sector of manufacturing and trades.

With the goal of building gender diversity in the workplace, the QMI Women Who Weld program aims to address the national trade skills shortage by exposing girls to welding as a gateway to the many job opportunities in the Western Downs' flourishing manufacturing sector, where 76 per cent of jobs are occupied by men.

CQUniversity Mackay Campus Coordinator and Whitsunday STEM Challenge Secretary Leanne Williams said the event gave students a firsthand look at the breadth of opportunities that the manufacturing industry had to offer and gained insight into what a career in the field could look like.

"The Women Who Weld workshops are a great opportunity to boost students' confidence and show them that the world of manufacturing is full of possibilities for women!," Ms Williams said.

QMI’s Program Manager Lachlan Wright, whose data 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 Wright said.

“Employers are really 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 actually produced.

“We have to encourage more students into the trade space because 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,” she said.

The participants also received a visit from women currently working in the manufacturing industry.

Guest speakers from local businesses Cummins, Monadelphous and Mackay Manufacturing hub inspired the young women with their own experiences of working in a male-dominated sector.

Cummins Mackay Branch Manager Glen Jones said Cummins was 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