LADY TRADIE: Ipswich apprentice painter Summer Perry, 20, is among just 3 per cent of women working in trades.
LADY TRADIE: Ipswich apprentice painter Summer Perry, 20, is among just 3 per cent of women working in trades. Cordell Richardson

Tough task for lady tradies who follow their calling

SUMMER Perry is a woman working in what has typically been a man's world.

She's one female that makes up the 3 per cent employed in the construction industry across Australia, a report released this year shows.

Throughout school Summer, 20, took cooking classes and worked in hospitality but always knew it wasn't for her.

She was interested in construction and when the opportunity to learn more presented itself, she took it.

"I've tried boiler making, plastering and painting," Summer said.

"I liked plastering the least and had a bad experience while working.

"Boiler making was fantastic. I really enjoyed it but it was too hot for me. Then I tried painting and it turned out really well."

Now Summer works as an apprentice painter for an Ipswich business but she's one of few.

Women account for less than 3% of the construction workforce, compared to 51% in other sectors.

Since 2005 there has been a boost in the number of women starting carpentry and electrical apprenticeships, according the Women in Construction 2018 report from Construction Skills.

But women who start apprenticeships are 12% less likely than men to finish.

During Summer's time as an apprentice plasterer, she had some experiences that might put women off staying in a male dominated sector.

"On one job site there was one padlocked toilet for women on one side of the job site but there were lots of toilets for men," Summer said.

Summer also had a negative experience in which she was denied permission to leave the job site to deal with a feminine medical issue.

"It's lots of little things that are small issues but still need to be worked on," she said.

She said actively encouraging and supporting women to gain a trade qualification might encourage more females to see working in the construction industry as a career path.


Trades key to closing the gender pay gap

CLOSING the gender pay gap relies on more women securing trade qualifications, in a climate where apprenticeship completion rates are dropping.

The number of young people finishing apprenticeships has dropped in the past two years.

Figures released during Parliamentary Estimates hearings show in the 2014-2015 year 4695 people who started apprenticeships finished them.

In the 2016-2017 financial year that figure dropped to 4000 and is expected to have dipped slightly lower again in the 2017-2018 financial year.

It's a pattern repeated across Australia, although Queensland has bucked a national trend with an 8.5 per cent increase in people starting apprenticeships.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said the State Government did need to do better when it came to keeping people in training until they were qualified.

"There has been a drop in completion rates since 2012," Ms Fentiman said.

"Queensland had the second highest rate of completion which shows this is happening across Australia.

"We are hoping to see better completion rates."

Ms Fentiman said encouraging more women to take up apprenticeships and earn a trade qualification was vital to closing the gender pay gap.

"Those are well paid successful careers," Ms Fentiman said.

"We need more women to put their hands up.

"I'm not for one second saying it won't be tough but there are some wonderful role models already who have done the hard yards."

Ms Fentiman visited Ipswich this week to host a roundtable with apprentices and union representatives on the industry's future.

The fourth and final session focused on strengths and challenges in Queensland's apprentice system.

The feedback will help shape the $1 million Advancing Apprentices Fund.