Peterborough girl students heading for trade careers

STRIKING A BLOW: Student Alicia McKenzie hammers a nail while watched by teacher Di Robinson, left, and SALT founder Fi Shewring.

STRIKING A BLOW: Student Alicia McKenzie hammers a nail while watched by teacher Di Robinson, left, and SALT founder Fi Shewring.

Excited female voices were heard on Friday, rising over what has been traditionally a male-dominated clamour of drills, sanding machines and hammer blows.

SKILLS: Hannah Mayall, left, Christine Hodgson, Hayley Klein, Alicia McKenzie, Georga Duncan and Haylie Pollard learned new skills, thanks to the visiting tradeswomen.

SKILLS: Hannah Mayall, left, Christine Hodgson, Hayley Klein, Alicia McKenzie, Georga Duncan and Haylie Pollard learned new skills, thanks to the visiting tradeswomen.

The occasion was a visit by SALT – Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen – to the Peterborough High School.

Amid the din, eleven girls gained a taste of trade careers, thanks to the organisation which set up benches and provided tools.

The exercise is seen as helping to overcome a shortage of tradespeople, particularly of the female gender.

The group is run by volunteer tradeswomen who are passionate about trades and bridging the gap to a diverse, skilled workforce.

Founder and president Fi Shewring is a qualified painter and decorator who did her apprenticeship while aged in her 30s – after taking a Bachelor of Arts.

“I had a watershed moment when my children were young and one of them nearly died,” she said.

“I thought that is my life and everything will be taken away from me in an instant. I later met a painter and decorator and he suggested that I work with him and I discovered I was good at the trade and the work.

“I started SALT in Wollongong, New South Wales, for tradeswomen and came up with travelling around with a trailer load of tools.

“I wanted to reach out to rural and remote areas. We have been doing that since 2012. Initially was had little money to do it. Up to March last year we had held 100 workshops.

“This is the first time we have been to South Australia.”

She said tradeswomen faced sexism in the workplace, but her group worked with companies which were already trying to diversify.

“We won’t work with companies that have topless entertainers at Christmas drinks because they are not professional,” she said.

“We tell our tradeswomen to be professional. You set boundaries on how you treat people and how you want  to be treated.”

She said some girls learned technical skills from their fathers, grandfathers and uncles while others had grounding in subjects at school.

Student Alicia McKenzie, 15, interrupted her drilling and hammering to talk to The Flinders News.

She wants to be an early childhood worker, but said the skills she picked up would be useful if she wanted to build something such as a cubby house.

She said she had been drilling, hammering, cutting, measuring and sanding.

“My brother Michael is actually a builder,” she said.

Alicia learned the finer points of the craft from SALT teacher and painter and decorator Di Robinson.

This story ‘Tradie girls’ hammer home equality first appeared on The Recorder.

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