Women trades students need more support from industry

Posted By TEU on Mar 10, 2016 |

sandie chamberlainThe construction industry needs to mentor more women into trades says CPIT trades tutor Sandie Chamberlain.

Chamberlain says that by training and employing more women and a more diverse range of people, the construction industry could alleviate some of the systemic problems it faces.

Chamberlain, who is resigning from her job at CPIT to take up an opportunity in the private sector, says the more women on a construction site, the safer it becomes. In particular, there will be less harassment for the women who are there already.

Last month Stuff reported that since the Canterbury earthquakes the number of women training in trades at CPIT has jumped by 800 percent. Last year nearly 10 percent of the 3763 students enrolled in CPIT’s trades courses were women.

“A 2015 report by the ministry reveals 8600 women are employed in construction in the Canterbury region, a jump from 3600 two years ago.

“At last count nearly 18 percent of Canterbury’s construction workers were female, compared with just over 14 percent nationally,” Stuff reported.

However, Chamberlain notes that only a minority of those women are ‘on the tools’, and says although there are more women training at CPIT it is still very tough for them once they leave polytechnic and start a job.

What the construction industry lacks is mentoring, support and opportunities for women in certificate level qualifications, says Chamberlain.

“Professional women who are engineers and belong to the National Association of Women in Construction can fight an educated battle, but when a newly certified painter is first out on the tools, and doesn’t have that level of knowledge it is hard for them work out what’s ok and what’s not.”

“I worry because the students we get through CPIT might be vulnerable, single mothers trying to make a career for themselves and going into trades because they did not do so well at school. They leave CPIT and are expected to work in an environment where men are all powerful. There is no mentoring or guidance for these women once they leave CPIT.”

Chamberlain says these women need support once they leave the polytechnic – but there is no funding or system to make it happen.

“It would be great for them to be able to get together to support each other instead of feeling like they have to go to the pub with the boys.”

“If the big employers realised the benefits and cared enough about supporting women in the industry they would create better support systems.  For example, they could educate young women who they employ on their employment rights about harassment, and about health and safety. They could make sure this is followed up with regular mentoring sessions and ensuring they have someone other than their direct supervisor to go to if things become difficult.”

Chamberlain says the workplace for young women leaving trades training is sexist, even if nothing is said or done to them.

“Just having your voice always ignored or sidelined – that’s sexism.”

“You have to be a really strong, assertive, with-it person to hang in there. You can find yourself in situations where you have to put up with a lot of crap.”

Chamberlain also says that in order to attract more women into the industry, construction companies also need to allow their workers more flexible hours.

“The industry relies on 7am starts. If you do not do your full 40 hours you’re not really wanted. Surely most construction sites don’t need a full team all day.”

Chamberlain says if you work four hours then need to go to look after your family that’s four hours of valuable hard work.


Thanks to Michael McGimpsey at Flickr for the photo  https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelmcgimpsey/10158581263/

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