Women nailing careers in the trades
Female trade apprentices are loving their career choice, but few considered working in building or construction while
they were at school, research shows.
Thursday is International Women's Day and the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) want to
attract more women to the industry. It surveyed its female apprentices and found that 96% of them had strong job
The construction industry is crying out for workers. But, a career in the trades is rarely suggested to girls while
they’re at school. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of BCITO’s female apprentices said they had never participated in
construction-related courses while at school and two-thirds (67%) were working elsewhere before starting their
Apprentice Nerida Laws worked in retail for seven years before she picked up the tools. She enrolled in BCITO’s New
Zealand Certificate in Interior Systems and is now employed by JFS Interiors in Queenstown.
“Working in the trades gives you a fantastic work-life balance and a steady income. I love the team environment of
working on-site and the sense of accomplishment you get when you complete a job,” says Laws.
More than half (53%) of BCITO’s female apprentices said “seeing the job finished” was the best thing about being a
tradie. Apprentices were also pleased with the great opportunities for career progression, the secure future and the
great lifestyle provided by their career choice.
Laws is currently working on a hotel site in Queenstown and says although there are at least 50 male tradies and only
one other woman, she enjoys the banter and it’s a very positive workplace.
Laws’ employer Paul Fallon says JFS Interiors had no hesitations about taking on a female apprentice.
“We are seeing more and more females on site. It might have been unusual ten or twenty years ago, but it’s almost
commonplace now. While the work can be physical, there’s minimal heavy lifting. There are no ways in which women are any
better or worse than the guys.”
Less than three percent of BCITO’s apprentices are female. BCITO Chief Executive Warwick Quinn says the trades offer a
range of careers and more women are needed if New Zealand is to meet the industry’s demands.
“More than 65,000 construction workers are needed over the next five years and a little under half of these need to be
trade qualified. The sector is crying out for workers and our traditional workforce pools are not meeting demand –
boosting gender diversity is vital.”
“BCITO is working hard to figure out how it can boost female participation in the industry, including leading a group of
organisations involved in a three-year research project by the Ministry for Women and National Centre for Tertiary
Teaching Excellence,” says Quinn.
“With the new fees free scheme covering student’s fees for two years of industry-based training, our message to women is
that there has never been a better time to consider a career in the trades.”