TAFE NSW offers female-focused trade class

TAFE NSW Ultimo refrigeration section is seeking female participation in a Certificate II Electrotechnology Career Start course in 2021.

The course is two days a week for six months. It provides students with key foundation skills and knowledge, and a sample of what the industry has to offer before they commit to a full apprenticeship.

“On successful completion, students can make a more informed decision on whether they pursue an electrical, electronics or refrigeration/HVAC apprenticeship,” says Grant Swanson, M.AIRAH, Head Teacher – HVAC and Refrigeration.

The Certificate II course began in 2019 with one class, and expanded to five classes in 2020. Students were predominantly school leavers, but there were also some mature-age students exploring career-change options. And as is generally the case in trade training, most students were male – something that TAFE NSW is hoping to change in 2021.

“We are trying to create a class with a high proportion of females,” says Swanson, “so that girls leaving the school system are not put off by a male- dominated class.”

At the end of the course, TAFE NSW will help students find an HVAC apprenticeship, which has also been a challenge for female students.

“At the trade level the HVAC&R industry remains a very male-dominated domain, so it will take some time and effort to change the perception towards hiring female apprentices,” says Swanson.

“Some state governments are assisting the drive to hiring female trade apprentices. The Queensland government, for example, has put female apprenticeship quotas on some government contracts, and has specific programs to encourage female participation in trades.”

Swanson says employers have a vital role to play too.

“I don’t believe there are many employers actively seek or considering female apprentices,” he says. “So effectively we as an industry are only viewing half the population as potential trade employees. The HVAC&R industry as a whole has struggled with a skill shortage for the 40-odd years that I have been involved, as we are not viewed as a trade of first choice like maybe builders, plumbers or electricians. We generally start with a much higher percentage of students with a lower level of academic achievement.

“By viewing girls as a viable apprenticeship option, we are greatly increasing the talent pool from which we select apprentices. And a diverse industry will ultimately provide better outcomes through different ways of thinking, different ways of organising and communicating.”

For more information about the class, contact TAFE NSW.

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