Kate is a female construction industry worker. An apprentice carpenter. To say Kate is blazing a trail in a male-dominated industry is an understatement.

Construction is one of the largest and most highly skilled industries in Queensland, yet it has the least female participation.

There are less than 90 female apprentice carpenters in the state’s construction workforce of 240,000, and the Sunshine Coast has the lowest percentage of women in construction training (two per cent).

Finding her way to a trade

Kate was inspired to get into carpentry through her dad.

“He’s very much a bloke that is in charge, knows what’s happening and is a good leader. He’s definitely well respected in his field. I was always following after him with my little tools and handing him things when he needed them.”

With the help of Community Solutions, Kate was placed into the Certificate I in Construction course and learned theory and practical elements of construction.

“Theory is a bit challenging; I’m not used to sitting and staring at the screen. I like our teacher, he makes things very relatable and he very much cares about our health and wellbeing. He makes sure we understand what we’re doing. I haven’t always had that in the past, teachers that particularly care,” said Kate.

Kate’s road to her dream apprenticeship was paved by Community Solutions which helps people find quality jobs through free vocational training. Taking her next steps into construction, Kate secured an apprenticeship within 8 weeks.

“It’s a very blokey world, but it is not terrible or terrifying to work in construction,” said the talented 25-year-old from Coolum.

“The way the men speak to each other is a bit of a shock at first – they sound quite aggressive. But then you realise they don’t mean it that way at all. It’s just the way they communicate.” Kate said.

Kate sitting at a picnic table in trade workwear

Breaking the stereotypes

Kate’s employer was surprised to have a young woman nominated for a position. “It was a bit of unknown territory for me to take on a woman, but Kate was smart, she was ready, she was keen to work and keen to learn,” he said.

“Kate wanted to make a difference. She was not there to simply take a pay cheque and kick stones.”

Sixty percent of construction apprentices in Queensland start with small businesses which can offer greater exposure to more tasks and swifter skill development.

Ten days into the job, Kate was doing everything from repairing faulty decks, to mixing cement for deck foundations, and running string lines on housing lots to indicate where walls would be located.

“It’s definitely not what you would call pure carpentry, but I’m learning things that create a foundation for the carpentry tasks ahead,” she said.

“Community Solutions gave me a lot of knowledge and confidence about working with tools safely that enabled me to hit the ground running.”

Kate sitting in trade workwear at picnic table

Making the switch from study to apprenticeship

Kate chose carpentry over a Biomedical Science degree at university and utilising her Diploma in Sports Development to work as a personal trainer. Years of household repairs, deck building and DIY projects with her father had sparked a genuine love of construction.

As for working in a ‘blokey world’, she attributes the large number of men to ‘the physical nature of the construction work but said that should not deter women.

“It sometimes feels like the workers measure their responses towards me, but I have no unit of measure to see if they treat all apprentices like that or if it’s because I’m a woman,” she said.

“Either way they still give me the hard tasks and include me everything. I’m learning and participating and that’s fine with me.”

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