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    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.

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    Wangaratta’s Brittany Gibbs takes leap into Girls of Steel course

    Wangaratta’s Brittany Gibbs takes leap into Girls of Steel

    ,Image: TAKING CHARGE: Wangaratta’s Brittany Gibbs is holding a funnel, which by the time she gets to the end of the 12 month Girls of Steel training course she will be able to make herself.

    Source: The Border Mail, Written by: Victoria Ellis, Photograph: James Wiltshire.

    Wangaratta’s Brittany Gibbs takes leap into Girls of Steel course

    A young Wangaratta woman is determined to set her career on a non-traditional new path by completing an engineering training course being run for the first time.

    Brittany Gibbs will next week start the Girls of Steel program, which teaches young women from disadvantaged backgrounds foundational engineering skills in a hands-on, workplace-based training environment and connects them with a job at the end.

    Ms Gibbs left school after year 10 and has many jobs, including in administration and hospitality, but none of them stuck.

    “I like hospitality, but I’m a bit over it now,” she said.

    “Hopefully I get an apprenticeship afterwards and then I can go into the mines in a few years.”

    Ms Gibbs said that she’d found it hard to find full time ongoing work, but she hoped the course would be the first step in a lifelong career.

    “I wouldn’t mind starting a business creating fire pits,” she said.

    The program will be run by The Skill Engineer social enterprise with $1.2 million of federal government funding.

    Director Brendan Ritchens said the course would help women into engineering, a male-dominated industry.

    “Often for young women it’s not a consideration because they’ve been told it’s not a job for them, whereas it simply is,” he said.

    “I have young women who are apprentices at my work and they do every bit, they are better apprentices than most of the guys I’ve got. The gender thing isn’t and shouldn’t, be an issue.”

    Nationally, just over 12 per cent of the engineering labour workforce is female.

    Ms Gibbs said it was harder for young women to get into the industry.

    “It’s taken me until I’m 22 to push myself to do it,” she said.

    “Unless you kind of grow up around it, it can be hard to do something different. I was a bit nervous getting into something when there’s just men; I think because there’s more competition because you’ve got to sort of prove yourself to them. When I was getting shown all the stuff on the computer I was like, ‘that’s awesome, I want to do that’,” she said.

    Mr Ritchens, an engineer himself, said it would be an opportunity for participants to learn an “exceptional trade”.

    “The other pastoral care side of this is teaching the participants how to turn up on time, how to behave in the workplace, dress appropriately, create that work ethic,” he said.

    “The hours will support any women that may have young children, so they don’t have to pay for childcare.”

    He said he wanted participants to finish the course ready for the workplace, so he’d also support participants to get their driver licence, teach them business acumen and budgeting.

    “It’s a more rounded course,” he said.

    For more information call (03) 5737 4257.

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    Woman provides spark to industry

    Samara’s work grind pays off in spades

    Image: LOVING THE WORK: Samara encourages other young women to get involved in a trade.

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

    Woman provides spark to industry

    Samara’s work grind pays off in spades

    FACTORY work just wasn’t cutting it for Corowa local Samara Ferguson.

    The 24 year old recently started her Certificate I in Engineering Fabrication at Wangaratta-based company Evero and is loving every minute.

    “I’d wanted to do something different for a while because I’d just been working in factories forever and I needed something more hands on,” she said.

    “I’ve been doing it for about three weeks now and I love it; it’s hands on, I’m using my brain and once I’ve finished something I can look at it and go “I made that”.

    “It’s also great to be able to look at things I’m doing and see improvement and go from there.

    “Even in these three weeks, I’ve overcome my fear of angle grinders; I’m sweet with them now.”

    Samara said she encourages other young women to get involved in a trade.

    “If you’re interested, just do it,” she said.

    “Don’t be scared and don’t think just because it’s all men you can’t do it; just dive in.

    “It’s been really good so far and I’m so excited to learn new things because I enjoy learning and being able to look back at the end of it to see how far I’ve come.”

    Evero managing director Brendan Ritchens said it’s been “great” to see the work Samara has done.

    Evero is a general engineering company; the mainstay of our work is within the manufacturing industry around Wangaratta and the broader region,” he said.

    “One of the points of difference here is we train all our seven apprentices in house, which means they don’t go to TAFE, they’re just enrolled through the institution.

    “We have an apprentice master who trains them; he’s an ex-TAFE teacher and has a teaching degree so he does all training on site where they get to be among live work.

    “Samara is doing great so far, I’m looking forward to seeing her through the next four years.”

    The Tradeswomen Australia Community Foundation held a national webinar this month for girls and women to talk about the anxieties of entering a male dominated trades workplace with a panel of women currently working in the trades.

    For more information go to

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