Women encouraged to tackle trades

Berry Street School and Shepparton ACE College students took part in the first Victorian workshop aimed at encouraging women to pursue a trade career.

Shepparton ACE College student Samantha Fraser is the only girl among her friends with dreams of becoming a carpenter.

Growing up, the Dhurringile resident, 17, would spend her free time learning about tools and construction from her builder father.

‘‘I’ve wanted to be a carpenter for five years — my dad used to be a builder and I would help him out,’’ she said.

Ms Fraser on Wednesday was among seven students from Berry Street School and Shepparton ACE College to take part in the first Victorian workshop delivered by Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen — or SALT.

SALT is a NSW-based non-profit incorporated organisation that began in 2009 to provide support to women entering the trades.

The workshop at Berry Street School, which the Salvation Army’s Pathways into Employment organised, aimed to expose women to non-traditional career pathways.

Tradeswomen from Sydney, Wollongong and Albury volunteered their time for SALT and travelled to Shepparton to host the workshops on carpentry skills.

Ms Fraser said she was nervous about entering a male-dominated trade after graduating from high school.

‘‘I’m worried men might be a little bit sexist,’’ she said.

‘‘It makes it a lot easier knowing there are a lot of other female tradies out there. I didn’t have a clue so many existed before the workshop.’’

SALT founder and co-ordinator Fi Shewring said the workshops began as a way to change attitudes about what women could achieve.

‘‘I became a tradie when I was a single mum with five small kids,’’ she said.

‘‘I realised I had never worked with another woman on-site and I didn’t realise it was a non-traditional trade.’’

She said SALT initially began as a support network for tradeswomen before growing into a workshop format.

‘‘I did some research before I started SALT in 2006 and found that if you were taught how to use tools from a young age, you would were more likely to be successful in trades,’’ she said.

‘‘Even if women aren’t interested in trades and have no intention of becoming tradies, these are great life skills to have.’’

The Victorian Government funded 13 workshops across the state, including in Benalla and Seymour, as part of its $2.4million Women’s Economic Participation Action Agenda.

Shepparton’s Pathways into Employment advisor Belinda Wood said women wanting employment advice could phone her on 0428187368.

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