GIRLS OF STEEL Government backs local program to get women into engineering trade

Image: SUPPORTING LOCAL WOMEN: The Skill Engineer executive director Brendan Ritchens is running the Girls of Steel program this month. 

Source: Wangaratta Chronicle, Written by: Leah Anderson-Byrne, Photograph: Kieren Tilly.

Government backs local program to get women into engineering trade

GIRL power is at the forefront of a new program starting in Wangaratta, where both engineering and life skills will support up to 40 young women in finding employment.

Buoyed by just under $1.2 million in Federal Government funding, local not-for-profit organisation The Skill Engineer is tackling long-term unemployment with its two year ‘Girls of Steel’ program, which gets underway next week.

Executive director Brendan Ritchens, who also manages local engineering business Evero, said he wanted to address the problem highlighted last year by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

”Last year, one of the big talking points was that women were going to be the ‘losers’ of the COVID-19 situation,” he said.

“We had to think about what we can do to help and came up with the idea of offering a 12 month program for young girls and women in an identified demographic group; long term unemployed aged between 17 and 24.

“We would have 1- participants here at Evero and 10 at our other site in Gosford and over two years train 40 women all up.

“So we put a proposal to the Premier and Cabinet last September and we heard about five weeks ago that we’d received just under $1.2 million in finding for the two years.

“Thanks to the funding, the program will be completely free for participants and they will be put through a Certificate I in Work Skills and a Certificate II n Engineering Pathways.

“This will help them with things like getting their drivers’ licence, money management, budgeting and supporting their ideas for businesses.

“The plan, then, is I’ll happily take on two or three of them as apprentices at Evero and through my network in the industry will aim to get the rest jobs around the region.

“This program is just the starting point, we all know it’s a journey not a sprint and this will give them a good solid start in the trade.”

Mr Ritchens said although there are only 20 spots in each 12 month program, and 10 at the Wangaratta site, there is opportunity for more.

“The great thing about this is, because it’s run through my not-for-profit, if someone in the program leaves because they got an apprenticeship somewhere we can easily replace them and give that spot to a whole new person,” he said.

“Because we’ve got my commercial company to fall back on, and participants will be around live sites and projects, it’s got a bit of security there.

“I’ve found that any woman in a male-dominated trade generally has to be twice as good to be seen as half as good as the blokes.

“In my experience there are no negatives when women enter the trade force because they know what they’re up against and they work a lot harder and they ray attention to the finer stuff that really matters.

“I’ve found the blokes are much more respectful in the workshop too so it just makes sense.

“What we’re developing here will be the start; the bigger plan is to chase funding for other similar projects working with young people with disabilities, kids kicked out of school, indigenous kids, young people from custodial sentences, kids who may not be fitting in the mainstream.

“I want to give them a fair start.”

The program will begin on July 12 with interested girls and women still encouraged to apply now.

For more information call (03) 5737 4257.

Read more >