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New initiative to bolster number of women in apprenticeships

Women are significantly underrepresented in trades. According to the NSW government, in the state, women make up just 9 per cent of apprentices.

The federal government has recognised this disconnect and has pledged to try and turn the statistics around in the recent federal budget.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations said that the government is implementing a $4.1 billion, five-year National Skills Agreement to ensure better access to vocational education and training (VET) and TAFE.

The plan also includes $54.3 million for Australian apprenticeship supports to improve completion rates. This program aims to support underprivileged apprentices, such as First Nations people, those with disabilities, and women in male-dominated trades.

Women were a key focus, with another $8.6 million put towards delivering Australian Skills Guarantee and introducing national targets for apprentices. The plan aims to double the number of women in apprenticeships and traineeships working on Commonwealth-funded major construction projects over $10 million.

Sarah Liu, managing director of diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy firm, The Dream Collective, commented: “Investment into apprenticeships that streamline the entry and re-entry process for women is a welcome improvement.”

“Women are underrepresented in the technology industry, and it is no secret that women, companies and our economy lose out because of this. The Australian Skills Guarantee will hopefully make waves on this front as it lays out specific targets for female apprentices and trainees on major government-funded ICT projects,” Ms Liu said.

“Women’s underrepresentation is a challenge everyone needs to address. It is a challenge not even the richest companies in the world have managed to collectively solve, but it is one we all stand to benefit greatly from. It’s time to overcome systematic barriers to seeking a job in this high-growth sector while also preparing women to move into the tech industry.”

The tech industry is severely male-dominated, with one report noting that women make up just 15 per cent of tech industry executives in Australia.

Ms Liu continued: “It’s important we use this initiative to expand how companies view the employability of women and start placing accountability in employers to employ and advance more of this talent pool.

“Tech offers one of the most sustainable and rewarding career paths available; we do not want women to miss out on the great opportunities that await them in the sector because of barriers to entry. It is time we move the dial from talk to action fast.”

She concluded: “To women themselves, I’d say recognise that the tech industry is rapidly evolving, and prior experience of technical skills is not always the pre-requisite to breaking into the tech sector. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), it takes as little as one to six months to develop a level of literacy in new skills (both technical and non-technical), meaning growing your skill set is never untenable.”

This article originally featured in HR Leader

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