Secondary schools failing the trades

April 13, 2018

Secondary schools failing the trades

Training women in the construction and trades sector is necessary to filling skill shortages. Photo: Supplied

Despite the construction worker shortage, secondary schools are failing to help women enter the industry, says the founder of a training organisation for women.

More needs to be done by education providers to open young women’s eyes to the opportunities in the trades industry, said Christina Rogstad, founder of Destination trades, an organisation assisting women into the male-dominated industry.

Research released by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) shows that while 96 per cent of surveyed women were satisfied with joining the industry, 72 per cent had never participated in construction at school.

“What [secondary schools] have a tendency to do is siphon off the kids they consider smart and University material and everyone else should go into trades. You are going to dumb down the trades eventually so much they are not going to be viable,” said Ms Rogstad.

Currently, she said, schools take the view they know best and pressure women down pre-determined paths.

“Something has to change within the system, that is fundamentally going to shift women out of sunset, low-paid careers into viable career opportunities,” said Ms Rogstad.

Jenny Parker, National Association of Women in Construction President, agreed and said she had heard of one female student who aspired to get into construction, but was instead persuaded to pursue a career in retail.

“We need to ensure that careers counsellors understand that women can have an outstanding career in the construction industry,” said Ms Parker.

These are not isolated cases, as Ms Rogstad said many of the women who participated in Destination Trades’ 10-week course in 2017 came to them with little understanding of what trades entail.

“[The women] are not exposed to what the industry is, so it’s not just building, it’s not just physical. There are things that are parts of trades that some women had no idea were even opportunities,” said Ms Rogstad.

But Ellen MacGregor-Reid, the Ministry of Education’s deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, said several initiatives in secondary schools provided opportunities for work experience and tertiary taster courses in building and construction.

“We encourage young people to pursue the career that best meets their needs, aspirations and interests, irrespective of gender,” said Ms McGregor-Reid, although she noted schools would develop their own programmes.

Ms Rogstad said that isn’t correlating into jobs for the women, as trades lack the female role models needed to make a career in the sector seem possible.

According to a report by Ryder Levitt Bucknall, New Zealand’s construction industry needs more workers, especially in Auckland where finding builders for projects, like the 3000-4000 houses recently announced to be built in Mt Albert, remains difficult.

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