Trading up – three success stories from our SPARK Women in Trades program

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Last year, Ginninderry’s SPARK training and employment initiative established the inaugural Women in Trades program to increase the visibility of women on construction sites and attract more women to the industry.

According to a 2020 report by RMIT, women occupied just 17% of the entire construction workforce in 2006. That number dropped to 12% in 2016 and further decreased to 11% in 2020. And when it comes to women employed in trades, the figures are even lower. The RMIT report found that only 1% of the trades and technical positions in the construction industry across Australia were filled by women.

“Looking at those figures, we knew we needed to do something about it. It’s just not good enough,” says Emma Sckrabei, Head of Community, Training & Employment at Ginninderry.

The holistic nature of the program proved successful, with the majority of graduates securing full-time employment in the construction sector. Here we catch up with three graduates to hear more about their journey, six months on.

Maryam SAFAR, Electrical Engineer (Shepherd Electrical)

As a recent arrival in Australia, Maryam jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Women in Trades program. Having worked as an electrical engineer, Maryam found that the program gave her so much more than an insight into the Australian construction industry.

“For me, as a person new to this country, the program offered me the opportunity to become familiar with the Australian culture and language, as well as the industry,” she said. “Making new international friends was another great advantage. It was a really supportive and friendly environment, and the SPARK team provided us with protective gear and daily delicious snacks. They also gave me a drawing board kit.”

The program’s impact for Maryam was, in her words, “profound.”

“The SPARK team were amazing people who really helped me, not just with my career but also in establishing a life here in Australia,” she said. “Not only did they find me a job that suits my knowledge at Shepherd Electrical, where I now work as an Electrical Engineer, but they also helped me with driving lessons and a road-ready course so that I could get my license.”

When asked if Maryam would recommend the course to other women, her answer is swift.

“In my point of view, this program is the best organised for women who want to start or become familiar with construction work. Learning was made fun and easy, and the skills we got were perfect for getting a job.”


Marielle KUIPERS, Apprentice Carpenter (Eifer)

For Marielle, the SPARK JobTrainer Women in Trades program gave her a clear sense of direction and set her on a solid career path.

“Before the program started, I was unsure what I wanted to do with myself, I was working in retail then started studying fashion design at CIT. I wasn’t enjoying my job in retail, and I had begun considering working in construction, but I did not know how to get into this industry or what the different trades even looked like.” Marielle says.

Through the program, Maryam experienced different trades within the construction industry and the opportunity to make valuable connections, which led her to secure a Carpentry Apprenticeship. She also really appreciated the supportive environment.

“The SPARK team took the time to get to know me and my career goals so they could connect me to employers that aligned with my interests,” she says. “They provided me with full PPE, which I still am using each day, and our Relationship Manager Rachel checked in with me regularly, not only from a program perspective, but she also checked in on me as a person and helped me with any challenges I may have had. It was nice to know there was someone to call if I needed.”

Marielle wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the program to others.

“This program had a huge impact on my life, I am loving my Carpentry apprenticeship, and the accredited units I gained through this program gave me a head start with my CIT work, making the first year of my apprenticeship just that bit easier,” she says. “I have also made friends in the industry who I occasionally bump into on different worksites, and I’m now ready and confident to move out of home and take the next steps in my life.”


Siobhan Nelson, Apprentice Electrician (Control and Electric)

Despite having a strong work ethic and extensive experience across a number of roles, Siobhan did not have a clear career path until she undertook the SPARK Women in Trades program.

“Before the program, I worked predominantly for one company for the past nine years. I worked in various roles such as administration, finance, lifeguard, and as a sports instructor. All these roles were casual with no opportunity for career progression or job security.”

After finding out about the Women in Trade program at the Canberra Jobs Fair, Siobhan was excited to apply and even more thrilled when she was selected. The program was not only an opportunity to learn a new set of skills, it was a journey of self-discovery.

“Something I learned about myself was that I actually had a lot of the desired skills to be a tradesperson. I just didn’t realise it before this program. I have attention to detail, math skills, enjoy working with my hands, problem-solving skills – this program truly changed my life.”

As with the other participants, the program benefits went beyond Siobhan’s expectations.

“I got to meet other women like me, people that are driven and smart and keen to make and create things,” she says. “But mainly the confidence it has given me has really helped me to get a job that I absolutely love. I couldn’t be happier that I participated in this program and found the right career path after many years of searching!”

Siobhan now works as an apprentice electrician for Control and Electric.

“This company is honestly incredible,” she enthuses. “I am happy studying one day a week, and my employer gives me plenty of support to learn new skills and ask questions.”

The Women in Trades program was funded by the Australian Government’s JobTrainer initiative and Skills Canberra in the ACT and was delivered as a collaboration between Ginninderry, Master Builders ACT, Build Like A Girl, the Healthy Tradie Project, and the Construction Industry Training Council.

“This program has been so successful.” Says Emma Sckrabei, Head of Community, Training & Employment at Ginninderry. “So we’re going to be applying for more funding and hope to run it again in 2022.”


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