When you imagine what a skilled trades person looks like, you probably picture a guy with a beard wearing a hard hat, work boots and dirty jeans. But what about the women?


Most of us, regardless of how progressive our ideas about gender are, would take notice of the presence of a female plumber, female construction worker, or a female diesel mechanic. Not because we would doubt their skills, but simply because they’re so rare. Less than 10% of applicants for trade apprentices are women, less than 4% of plumbing and electrical trade trainees are woman and less than 2% of building trades workers are women! Let’s not forget that women make up just over half of New Zealand’s population. This huge potential market represents an opportunity for employers and respective industries which cannot be overlooked.  It’s curious that in 2018, a time when we are so adamant on telling women they can do anything, learning a trade still doesn’t feature as a prospect.

There are a few reasons for this.

1) There’s a lack of opportunity for girls to take technical or trade subjects at school, and they’re not encouraged to undertake school-based apprenticeships.

2) Then there’s the “dirty” image of trades, which is culturally perceived as “unfeminine”. Thus, parents are far more likely to encourage their daughters to choose other careers over becoming an automotive engineer or a carpenter.

These barriers aside, we would like to see more woman applying for our technical and trade jobs because now… we don’t see many. Employers in these respective trades are trying to find ways to attract women for their trade jobs, there are now handbooks and training guides explaining how to achieve this. There are a couple of reasons why there has been a recent spike in demand for women in trades:

1) Women bring a fresh dynamic to a male-dominated environment and have a different way of thinking and doing things.

2) I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the current skills-shortage in the construction industry. Companies are searching far and wide for suitable employees, but why should an employer search for overseas candidates, when there are perfectly good candidates here in New Zealand. If you are a woman looking for a trades job, you have hit the jackpot!

By the numbers; Number of new people needed by 2020:

Automotive: 11,200

Building and Construction: 64,000

Civil: 19,600

Mechanical Engineering: 5400

Plumbing, Gas fitting and Drain laying: 7800

Roofing and Scaffolding: 6800

3) Traditionally trades careers have been aimed at men, but employers now realize that women bring a different set of abilities that helps to broaden a company’s overall set of skills. They can add more skills, perspective, and diversity into the workforce – a win-win for everyone involved.

Women have a much better application conversion rate: CASE STUDY

We rarely receive applications from women for any form of hands on trades job. However, this year we ran a job ad for a grunty trades role and received 70 applications, we were pleasantly surprised to see that one of these applications had come from a woman. Out of these 70 male applicants, the one person who achieved an interview with the company was our one female candidate. This proves the changing perception of employers in these respective industries, and their willingness to take on board women no matter what the role.

When we talk about job applications, the interview conversion rate for woman is significantly higher than men. The goal of anyone’s job application is to secure that first interview. From here on you know that the company likes what you have put forward which gives you a boost of confidence.

While the demand for women in trades is going up and up, I ask, why not apply for a trade role? Don’t be scared, there are many trade skills programs and community partnerships around New Zealand. If you are worried about the stereotype, there’s no need, because all of those women working in trades right now have already broken it for you!

If you are a woman and you are looking at applying for a trades role, please contact us on 0800-171-000 for a private discussion with one of our experienced recruitment consultants. We will help you choose what is right for you give you advice you won’t find anywhere else. Alternatively, please email your CV to conor@trs.co.nz.

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