Women in construction

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Employment within the construction industry is forecast to grow sharply over the next four years as activity in the sector increases.

Currently there are about 175,000 full time jobs in the industry, with this figure predicted to increase to about 255,000 by the end of 2017.
That’s a whopping 46% increase, or 80,000 extra people working in our sector which is just coming out of the doldrums, in a very short period of time.

This is a massive challenge to find the right people and talent to fill these positions and enable the industry to complete these workloads successfully.
Where will we find the best people?

Imported labour and people moving across from other industries within New Zealand is part of the solution, but the traditional answer is to increase training, particularly of young people. Traditionally, ours is a very male-dominated industry, but is it smart practice to only attract half of the nation’s talent?

Good business recruiting has long extolled the benefits of diversity of thinking within each company or team. A variety of gender, ethnicity, nationality, training and skills all bring different thinking to problem solving, methodology and planning.

Women are prominent in administration, design, some specialist trades and the supply chain, but not at all in core construction. In fact, far less than 1% of carpentry apprentices are female.
The results of this year’s Apprentice of the Year competition asks us why this should be when Kate Ross won the Auckland regional event and went on to become a national finalist.

Kate, who is in the last year of her apprenticeship, believes there have been no barriers for her, and that she has had a great time working for Charlie, her boss from CG Low Building.
The team around her have been accepting and encouraging. She points out that there was a bit of doubt at first, and that she had to prove herself and earn respect through her work ethic and problem solving techniques.
“Builders may think girls can’t handle the workload but give them a chance,” she says.

Her carpentry apprenticeship isn’t the only thing Kate is completing, as she is also doing a Bachelor of Construction degree at Unitec. This involves study and attending block courses in her own time.

Kate’s long-term goal is to run her own construction company, and to look for opportunities in the niche residential building and development market in Auckland.
She believes young women need to think about working in the construction industry.
“It wasn’t something we talked about when I was at school, but it’s a totally viable career. People think it’s cool when they find out that I am a builder.”

For the past 19 years the National Association of Women in Construction organisation has been promoting women in our sector. Their goal is to be a voice for women in construction, and to offer networking and mentoring. They have more than 200 members, with chapters in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Their web site is currently being rebuilt, but they can be contacted on www.nawic.org.nz or through their national president Cathy Tracey on 04 381 6434.
I think it is important that employers think outside of the square and look at the strengths that diversity can bring to our industry.