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Podcast: How Tradeswomen are Shaping the Industry

Podcast1 How Tradeswomen are Shaping the Industry

Hacia Atherton, founding director of Empowered Women in Trades, is the guest speaker for the first episode of the 6-part WITS About Us Podcast series.

Welcome to the debut episode of the WITS About Us Podcast, brought to you by MIGAS Apprentices & Trainees.

Join us on an exciting journey as we spotlight remarkable women in the trades industry. Our 6-part series features interviews with industry experts, female apprentices, and trade career coaches, offering invaluable advice on pursuing a successful trade career.

In this first episode, we set the stage with an inspiring guest, Hacia Atherton, the founding director of Empowered Women in Trades (EWIT).

Hosted by Stacey Wallace, General Manager of MiTraining, we delve into Hacia Atherton's remarkable work in the trades industry, born from her journey to overcome adversity.

Get ready for fresh perspectives, real-life experiences, and captivating stories about starting a career in the Australian trades industry. Whether you're interested in electrical, mechanical, or engineering trades like fitting and turning, this podcast covers it all.

Here's a sneak peek at what we'll cover:

  • The meaningful impact of trades: How your work can improve the lives of others
  • Finding the right work culture: Tips for choosing an employer who values and supports you
  • Breaking gender stereotypes: Your skillset defines you as a tradie, not your gender
  • Essential skills for tradeswomen: What it takes to thrive in the trades
  • Choosing the right trade: Insights and guidance to help you make an informed decision
  • Overcoming adversity: Hacia's inspiring journey of resilience and triumph
  • Embracing your strength: Using personal experiences to empower yourself

Access more information, updates, and additional resources about the WITS About Us Podcast.

Remember to subscribe on your favourite podcast platforms such as Apple, Spotify, Google, and YouTube and join us in celebrating the achievements of women in trades while inspiring others to pursue their dreams in the industry.

Watch the podcast recording on YouTube or read the transcript below.

WITS About Us Podcast: Episode 1

Episode 1 Transcript

  • Read the WITS About Us Podcast Episode 1 transcript

    Host: Welcome to the WITS About Us Podcast Episode 1, where we interview Hacia from Empowered Women in Trades (EWIT) about how tradeswomen are shaping the industry. Okay, let's get into Episode 1. Uh, good morning, Hacia. It's lovely to meet you.

    Hacia: Lovely to meet you too.

    Host: And on the podcast today, we're talking about the importance of diversity and how tradeswomen are shaping the industry. To get started, I'd love to hear more about your role as CEO and founding director of Empowered Women in Trades.

    Hacia: Yeah, so it's a fantastic and exciting role. I'm a fifth-generation plumbing family, and that kind of inspired setting up empowered women in trades 'coz although I had such rich history of commerce in my blood, uh, family company manufacturers, medical infection control equipment, so I grew up with welders and fitter and turners and electricians on my back doorstep as well of as course plumbers. But my own unconscious bias, I never asked Dad if I could have a crack at the tools or work experience was always in the office side of the business and never really on the shop floor until I finished my accounting qualifications and Dad said, "Okay, now go and learn the trade side of the business". And I fell in love with welding.

    So, part of my role as the founding director and CEO, I focus on inspiring women to look at their own unconscious bias and question, why aren't I having a go at exploring this world? Because once you enter it and get hands-on and start understanding the unique career opportunities out there, it's stimulating and fantastic. And we see that with women in our programs. The shift in that mindset from I can't do this because I'm a woman, so I can do this because I'm a successful person with good hand-eye coordination, all the skillsets needed for that trade.

    Host: Wonderful. It's great that you've questioned your unconscious bias and also the gender stereotypes that are embedded so early in life. I'm keen to hear more about the programs you offer young women and how they inspire them to enter a trade career.

    Hacia: Yeah, so the fantastic thing about our programs is, I thought it was going to be young women, but we have women enrolling from, you know, school age up to our oldest participant was in her 50s, which was exciting to see women from an actual diverse age starting to question those stereotypes out there. So, our programs are all based on positive psychology to help with that mindset shift that both the industry needs but also the females need and that self-doubt we see many females coming to the trades with questioning whether they can do it, challenging whether they'll be wanted in the industry and all of these self-doubt questions. So, we start with positive psychology to shift that mindset. Then we allow them to explore a range of different trades. So, they'll begin to cut and join pipes while we explain the plumbing industry.

    They'll get to assemble and assemble a hot water system, for example. Then an electrician's experience, they might make their cord and plug and things like that. In carpentry, they'll have a crack at some tools making specific little trinkets or different things out of wood. So, the whole point is to give them a hands-on experience while they understand what those trades look like and the career pathway. So we also have an immersive experience where we take our participants to a manufacturing facility or a construction site and show them what the tradespeople are doing, show them the team leaders, the four people, and the site managers, and show them that skilled trades is a long-term career pathway that can lead into management style positions or if they want to later on in their career move into project management, uh, operations management, factory management, there is a career pathway for them to transition off the tools if they don't want to be on the tools for the rest of their lives.

    Host: Amazing. It's so great to hear that you are removing some of the barriers to entry for women into trade careers, which is fabulous to see. Can you think of a specific example of one person who has experienced your program and how it impacted them?

    Hacia: Yeah, so one person that comes to mind is this fantastic woman who's now doing her plumbing apprenticeship. So, she came into one of our more extended programs. She started thinking she was interested in a different trade. She wasn't looking forward to the plumbing day because she thought plumbing was an unfair, masculine trade. And then, after she had the plumbing experience, she was like, this is what I want to do. I loved it. So, at the end of our programs, we also connect participants to a network of like-minded employers that want to see women thrive in the industry and not just box-ticking or hiring from quotas; they genuinely want to invest in these women. So, we connected her to the network of the master plumbers. She did the master plumbers pre-app because she wanted to get a little bit more education and a little bit more confidence before she started her apprenticeship. And then, when she graduated, she's rolled into her internship, and I'll be a second-year apprentice soon. And she is thriving, loves her job, and is so excited that she found plumbing.

    Host: That is brilliant. And you've highlighted the importance of advocacy and mentorship in trades for women. How critical is connecting women to networks in terms of their success in the industry?

    Hacia: It's critical to connect women to various networks. So, as we know, many careers within skilled trades are informally advertised. There will be people down at the pub saying, I’m looking for an apprentice. Do you have a nephew, son, or someone who wants to crack the tools? Uh, or again, with the skill shortage, people are calling employers and saying, do you have a job? So, many of these jobs need to be placed on platforms like or job boards. So, it's crucial to connect women to networks that know or have an ear to the ground about this kind of underground world of advertised jobs. Especially in the smaller organisations, your more influential organisations, yes, they've got HR departments. They'll advertise on their website, but many women want to work in a more intimate, smaller environment. Those smaller businesses generally hire through their own networks or word of mouth. So, connecting women to that environment and people who know about these jobs is crucial.

    Host: And your example before, uh, highlighted the importance of having that experience because it's only until you know that perhaps you can get an understanding of what a particular trade, um, requires. In addition to that, the female percentage of tradeswomen in Australia is so small. How can we inspire more women to take up these options and see trade careers as viable and rewarding?

    Hacia: Yeah, and seeing how small it is disheartening. I know in electricians there's about 2% females, plumbers 1%, metal trades 1% again. And all these trades have tremendous growth opportunities between now and 2026 ranging from 4% to electricians. I think is about 10.2% growth going to happen in that industry. So, we're looking for hundreds of thousands of electricians out there. So, I think a significant barrier we see for women is a need for more awareness. They need help understanding, for example, taking electrician trades with A grades and different licenses, or looking at the plumbing industry, there is gas fitting, roofing, HVAC, and mechanical services. So, women need to understand the breadth of the trades and, again, the environments that these trades work in. So many women come to me and say, I don't want to be a plumber or deal with dirty toilets.

    And then when you explain to them, if you wanted to be a sanitary plumber in new builds, all you're doing is putting toilets in the facilities and touching brand new equipment. You're not even connecting dirty pipes or anything like that. And that just changes their mind so much about the opportunities for them in the trades taking away that concept that they're, you know, dirty or dumb or things like that. And that's another thing we highlight is that trades aren't a dumb career pathway. You’ve got to be very intelligent, switched on depending on what trades you're going in. You're good with math and strong communication skills because you're dealing with clients who need help understanding businesses. You have to explain different things that are going on, or you have to communicate with other trades on-site. So having excellent communication skills, problem-solving skills, reading and understanding drawings, it's a very academic career pathway, just not in your traditional university reading a book, sitting down, doing an exam, etc. So again, we explain to women that it's nothing to feel ashamed about going into a trade. It doesn't mean that you're dumb, it doesn't mean that you're a second-class citizen, it just means that you are academic and intelligent in a more hands-on logical way than book learning.

    Host: Absolutely. I 100% agree with you. And also, trade careers can be very lucrative. What other benefits or advantages for women entering trades as a career pathway?

    Hacia: So yes, if you're entering a trade with a four-year apprenticeship, four years can be tricky and not as flexible. But once you're a qualified tradesperson, like there's mama plumber out there who's a qualified plumber and she works flexibly around her children, around schooling time, she's earning $120 an hour, if not more and reduced hours of work around her children, she's still making more than she would at an office job or at Woolworths or something like that. So, I think once you do those four brutal years, which apprenticeship for anyone male or female is tricky. You've got incredible flexibility to start your own business. You can move into management positions to stay in a larger organisation. You can travel with your trade once qualified, move anywhere in Australia, or go overseas, which is a fantastic opportunity. And then, the financial benefits trades, all of them earn higher than your average Australian wage. So having a woman financially empowered like that is such an incredible option. And then, as I said before, the ability to use your trade to transition into more project management, contract management, and career pathways later on in your life is an incredible opportunity.

    Host: Yeah. And not to mention the work and life satisfaction that comes from having the courage to choose a career path that fits you and what you want to be. Such tremendous benefits.

    Hacia: Exactly. And so many tradeswomen say to me what they love, especially if they've transitioned from another style of career; what they love is looking at the end of the day and going, I built that, or I was part of doing that. Or if they're on big infrastructure projects telling their kids that mom was part of creating that infrastructure project, massive apartment building, or different things like that. And again, many women I speak to love knowing that they're building a home for a family, creating shelter for a family, or that they can travel to third-world countries and contribute to improving those countries with their trade skills. Whether creating fresh water for a community or building a school or different things, there's a real, emotionally rewarding side to making the trades. I don't finish doing a profit and loss statement as an accountant and feel super proud. Still, from speaking to so many tradeswomen, they feel so pleased to step back at the end of the day and see what they've created and contributed to society.

    Host: Yeah, and that's, you know, the purpose of our podcast today, which is how women are shaping the industry, contributing to the environment, to society both in Australia and overseas. I'm curious about shifts in the industry. MIGAS is working hard to encourage female participation in trades. There's a 20% female participation rate for apprentices and trainees, with more than 10% female trade apprentices. Um, we're doing a great job in that respect. But are you seeing any shifts in the industry on your side in terms of inclusivity, um, and great workplaces for women to work?

    Hacia: There's more and more coming. Again, to be entirely transparent for women, you need to be careful about what employer you connect with. Some have only done the shift because of the pressure of the quotas or the stress of their board wanting more diversity. So, some employers have genuinely shifted and are very passionate about it. Some employers have turned because of the quotas and want to keep tendering on specific jobs. Some employers are digging in their heels and still believe that trades are not where women can be successful, which is disheartening. Still, it's the reality that we're facing at the moment. The only way we're going to change that is to have more and more women come in, thrive in the trades, show that they're capable of doing a fantastic job, that they're moving up into leadership positions and that it's not about gender to being a good tradesperson, it's about your skill set.

    Host: Absolutely. I can see that you're trying to create a movement here.

    Hacia: Yes. [laughter] Very much so. Very much so. And I think Australia can do it. We did it all those years back when we were the second country in the world to give women the right to vote. So, we've got a very good historical... um, history of championing women. So, I believe we can do that and become a world leader in trades and gender equality, and diversity.

    Host: You mentioned the importance of choosing an employer right for you. What are some of the markers that, uh, female apprentices coming into the industry can look for in the interview, in the employment process regarding an excellent company to work for?

    Hacia: Well, there's some just general basic things like asking the question if they have female toilets or female facilities; that's going to be a big sign to see if they go; what do you mean? Or if they're like, yes, we've got sanitary bins, we've got female toilets, we make sure there's a female toilet on site. So, I know that's a peculiar thing to ask, and especially if you're from the corporate world, you're like, what do you mean? Do they have female toilets? But that's a big question to ask. The other thing around is female uniforms or if it's a trade where you use harnesses asking do they have female harnesses? Do they have female cut uniforms and things like that, which again will show you if they're genuine or if they're like, no, I love, you just wear the boys' stuff? We just, you know, bulk buy, and whatever you fit in, you fit in, um, put a couple more socks on your feet or something like that to fit into the big boots.

    Host: Oh, gosh. [laughter]

    Hacia: So those kinds of fundamental things highlight it. You are, again, asking if they've got policies around sexual harassment, parental leave, etc. So, to understand if basic infrastructure is in place for you to thrive. And then the question of why you are looking at increasing diversity in your organisation is an excellent question because, again, if it's the quotas, they will be stumped at answering that question. If it's genuine, they will say, you know, to improve the culture, increase innovation, and have more diverse thoughts in the organisation. So, you'll be able to pick up if it's an effortless thing or if it's like, well, the quotas tell me I’ve got a hired woman, so I’ve got to hire women. [laughter]

    Host: Such practical advice. Thank you so much, and I'm sure people listening today will appreciate those tips and tricks in going through that employment process. In terms of getting ready to enter into a trade-based career, um, for a female, what do you recommend in terms of honing particular skills, say, let's say, at school or, um, if someone's in a current job, what do you need? What helps with getting into the industry?

    Hacia: Starting to get some confidence with basic tool handling. So, whether that is power or hand tools, starting to understand the weight of the devices. Even if you just go to Bunnings, put a tool belt on, and fill it up with some tools. Try on steel cat boots for the first time because they're pretty heavy and get comfortable with the environment. So once you walk into an environment where you are going to feel uncomfortable, the first time I walked into my family factory, even though I knew everyone on the floor when I was there with my high boot, high vis on, my steel cat boots on, you know, my tools in my hand, I just felt so uncomfortable. So, start to take things off the table that make you uncomfortable, and begin to experience the tools. Uh, again, that's why we use instruments in our program. Hence, women and non-binary people have the experience of feeling the tools and understanding that.

    So, if you've got fans or family that use tools, ask if you can go and have a little lesson with them or a bit of an experience. So that will help build up your confidence. The other thing as well is to try to get an understanding of the environment. So, if you are interested in the manufacturing environment, go to a manufacturer and ask if you could have a tour or if you were able to do a day's work experience and understand what that environment's like. Again, in commercial construction, you're going to need your white card, so that's a fantastic thing to go and do that if you can afford to on your initiative to get a white card, and that will give you some fundamental understanding around OH & S and safety and awareness of the risks in the industry as well. And then, once you've got your white card again, reach out to see if there's a way that you could come and see what the site's like or do some work experience or labouring work. Just immerse yourself before you jump into an apprenticeship because that is a long-term commitment. So, wait to take that step until you're confident that's what you want to do. And there are plenty of trade assistant or labouring roles where you can get into these environments, experience them, and decide what trade you'd like to do.

    Host: I love that you suggest that, you know, people have agency in the process, and they can self-direct their careers by choosing experiences to start to learn and understand more about a particular trade area. You've highlighted the importance of selecting, you know, correctly because it is a four-year commitment. Perhaps one option is to start as a trade assistant, but how else can people or women decide which trade to choose?

    Hacia: Yeah. Again, as I mentioned before, there are pre-apprenticeship options. So, if you're looking at construction, there's a construction pathways pre-apprenticeship which does a little bit of a range of different things. Um, if you're looking at more metal-based trades, there are short courses and welding, so you can see if you enjoy it and go back to that and ask for work experience. So, if you're interested in electrical, for example, see if someone will take you on for a few days to give you some work experience in that space. Uh, or again, if you're like on-site and you saw what the carpet-- carpenters were doing, go and tap them on the shoulder and say, hey, I'm interested. Is there a possibility to come out with you on-site for a couple of days?

    Host: Yes. Brilliant. And we started this podcast with you discussing how you and your family's fifth-generation plumbers; I'm wondering about the possibility of people considering a trade-based career accessing their own family and friends as a way because we all know a tradie. Don't we?

    Hacia: Exactly. And that's starting with those friendly people in your network. I'm sure if you don't know precisely a tradie, someone in your family or friendship group will know it, know a tradie, and that's happy to take you out and support you. And then, there are programs like what we do, our tool skills days, and our experience trades programs designed to showcase three or four different trades and explore the industry's opportunities.

    Host: Fantastic. And completing the trade is equally important as getting into a profession. Can you think of any specific challenges, um, of tradeswomen that they encounter and how potentially they can overcome them so they can, um, make sure that they complete?

    Hacia: Yeah, again, that's returning to that support and that network. So, if you are the only woman on site, it can be daunting, lonely, and frustrating. So, connecting to a community of tradeswomen is very important. Again, reaching out to a mentor or a coach, just because you're not in the corporate world, means you can connect with a mentor or a coach, someone that's already walked this footpath. Again, in your apprenticeship, you've got your ASNs as well, whether that's MEGT or MAS National, and lean on them; they've got coaching services and support services. So really depend on them to see if you are struggling, what support there is, whether that's financial support that you need, whether that's emotional or mental support. And then I think being open and honest with your family and friends; sometimes some women believe that they have to prove to their family and friends that they might be doubting their decision that everything's fantastic and everything's fine.

    And if you are struggling emotionally or mentally, that will create more and more pressure for you. So, creating environments where you can be open and honest with your friends and say, I love my trade. Still, I struggle with X, Y, and Z. if the employment environment is just that toxic. You don't think you can make it anyway; you've tried to improve the relationships, you've wanted to speak up about things that are happening that you're not comfortable with, leave. Don't keep trying to fight-- the good fight if it's starting to become too much with the skill shortage out there. There are other jobs, and there are other employers. If you're working for a group training organisation that hires you and places you with host organisations, be honest with your group training organisation. Say, this employer's not working for me; I'd like to be identified with another employer. So, I think it's crucial to be honest with yourself and honest with the people around you. Don't think you just have to suck it up, drink a cup of concrete, and show that you're tough and can put up with all this stuff. Men in the industry shouldn't put up with bullying and harassment, and it's... call it out as well and then leave if, after calling it out, it's not getting any better. Don't sit there for years on end, cooping inappropriate behaviour.

    Host: Fantastic. And just highlighting the importance that it's okay to be vulnerable and honest about how you're feeling. And we are pleased to report here at MIGAS Apprentices and Trainees. We assign each of our apprentices, uh, with a support person, a field officer throughout their apprenticeship to support them. Um, and that's someone that the apprentice can confide in, and they can also help to complete. So, we do provide that support here, which is great. You mentioned the skill shortage. What's your argument for the time being correct to get into a trade-based career for females now?

    Hacia: Uh, well, definitely the fact that those industries are growing. So, as I mentioned before, the electrician trade areas are looking at increasing about 10.2%, plumbing 8.6%, and then your metal-based trades off welding fitter and turning about 4% to 5%. So, there are substantial growth opportunities in the industry where other industries may also be shrinking. So, the fact that there are growth opportunities, the manufacturing and construction industries are predicted to be increasing in their profitability as well, which is fantastic. But again, I think more of an opportunity to find something you're passionate about. And that's something I see from so many tradeswomen. When I speak to many tradesmen, they seem to say, "Oh, my dad did it; it's good money. What else am I going to do with my life? Every tradeswoman I've spoken about doesn't even mention the money. They say how rewarding the job is, how great it's been for their confidence, how great it's been for their wellbeing, how great it has been for them to be able to feel that they're doing a hard day's work and seeing what they're contributing to the fact that they're being seen for their skillset by their team and everything like that.

    So, they come out feeling competent in what they're doing. They think they have good relationships with their team and the tradeswomen community. And it is a beautiful community. The tradeswomen out there also support each other, which I love. And I think for me, the mateship that you find, so when I was in the factory, I built some fantastic mateships with some incredible men on the floor. I have yet to really see that connection in the corporate world. I've got, you know, colleagues and things like that. Still, that real mateship of joking around, humour and fun, and all that stuff I've never really experienced in the corporate world as I did in the factory. So, I think there is a beautiful culture. Yes, there is some lousy culture out there, but once you find the right employer and team, there's this beautiful, fun, supportive culture.

    Host: Fantastic. And some young women may come up against people who believe that choosing a trade career is risky for women and girls. What would you say to that?

    Hacia: again, their concerns are valid, and going back to choosing the right employer is incredibly important. And with the skill shortage, don't just take the first job offered to you. You can shop around, and you can ask those questions to make sure that the employer is right for you. Again, if the employer wants to sign you up for an apprenticeship immediately and you are uncertain, ask if you could do a two-week trial before signing the paperwork. Ensure that you are investigating the environment, the employer, and the team, that it's the right team for you, and that you feel safe and comfortable in that environment. Again, looking at organisations like yours, if there are strong support networks in those organisations and then that's somewhere that you can know that you're going to be looked after and thrive in as well.

    So, it's asking those deep, meaningful questions. What support do you have for me to complete my apprenticeship? What support do you have for me if I am having a hard time, or what support is in the organisation long term if I decide to have a child? And all of those kind of things. So, asking those questions flush out the employer's mindset, especially if you are like, I want to be here for a long time, even after my apprenticeship; what's your parental leave policy? Or, um, what support can you give me if I want to have a baby? And that will quickly flush out whether they're like, when will you have a kid? You know, we don't... you know, you'll have to get off the tools, and then we'll have to replace you if they go into this massive problem-solving. The problem of you having a baby is a problem for them. Probably not the right place. But if it's like, that's all right, we've got something in plan, we put you onto light duties as you go through your pregnancy, and then when you're coming back, we have a come back to work strategy and plan, then that's probably going to be a company where you're going to thrive in.

    Host: Hmm, fantastic. And what would be your advice for a young female who is still deciding but is considering entering a trade career?

    Hacia: So, if you are still deciding what trade career you want, our programs are fantastic, so come and explore our programs, but again, start getting curious. So, reach out to, for example, the ETU for electrical stuff and ask them what the day is in the life of an electrician like or, uh, what are the different styles of electrician work out there? Reach out to organisations like your organisation and just ask those questions. Can you explain what your technicians do or the day-to-day tasks I would be doing? And just start to understand whether you like being an inside person, an outside person, whether you want to go to the same place every day or you're happy to travel around because that will start flushing out whether you should be in the manufacturing industry where you're going to the same place every day, or whether you could be a service technician where you're travelling around a lot.

    Host: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And are there still misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding trades in Australia concerning women? Are we still in the process of myth-busting?

    Hacia: Very much so. So, I tell all women looking to enter the trades industry that you need to educate the people out there. So, some men... sorry, some men want to do the right thing. So, if they see you lifting a ladder or something heavy, they'll be, I'll do that for you, I'll do that for you. So, it would be best if you educated those men that it's okay; let me have a try myself. If I need help, I'll ask you. Again, if employers need to give you tasks, ask them. Say, I really want to have a go at that task. Uh, uh, if you're being called love or hun or sweetie pie or sugar pot, all those things offer a nickname. Say, could you contact me H instead of love? So, women need to do a significant education process and mentor the men around them on how they want to be treated. Some women are happy for the men to lift the ladders for them, and some women aren't. So, you just have to communicate and educate the team around you on how to interact and build a relationship with you.

    Host: Brilliant. And going back to empowered women in trades and the essential work you do, you have overcome significant injury; how does that influence the person you've become and the job you do today?

    Hacia: Yes, so back in 2017, I was a very high-level horse rider. I was training to go to the world equestrian games, and unfortunately, my young horse reared up, and I fell off, and she landed on top of me. So, I had to go to a hospital for six months. Uh, doctors thought I'd never walk again in any meaningful way. I was three months non-weight bearing, and it was 117 days after the accident until I stood on land for the first time. So that was an incredibly challenging, uh, time, a very challenging experience, and it's been an ongoing challenging experience. I've had 25 surgeries since then, which is quite a lot [laughter]. And so, I've had to go through that, getting myself back on my feet again and again and again, which has taught me a lot about resilience, uh, and also made me find my love for positive psychology and understanding how positive psychology can get you through those dark and challenging times.

    And hence why we put that into many our programs because not only overcoming, uh, fear in our programs, but it's that fear will come back again and again throughout your trade career, whether it's fear of making a mistake and making a client angry or fear of being the only woman on site. Uh, so that's where the positive psychology comes in. The other thing I like is when men tell me that women aren't tough enough to be in trades, I show them my x-rays and say, well, look at here. I had a horse sit on me, and uh, I'm here, and I've done a half marathon since that horse sat on me, and I'm up walking, and I live in con-- constant pain. So how can you tell me women aren't tough enough to be tradespeople? So that's a bit of, uh, um, I enjoy doing that, showing those men that doubt women, my x-rays and said, well, tell me-- tell me how I've gotten through all of this, and I'm not tough enough to be a tradie.

    Host: Wow, that's a compelling story, and just amazing to hear how such a severe injury, um, has come such great positivity in terms of the impact that you are having on our females in the country to consider a trade-based career. Congratulations, that's inspiring. Tell me a little about the programs you run, how you run them, and where they're run.

    Hacia: Yeah, we focus on co-designing them with the industry. So, I bring my expertise to positive psychology. Still, I need to become an expert plumber, electrician, or something like that. So, we collaborate with organisations like Reece, who come and deliver and co-design the plumbing education, or we collaborate with TAFEs. So, our women in the welding program at the moment that's a Melbourne Polytechnic, and the TAFE is providing all of the welding education. We are providing the community, the coaching, the support, and the positive psychology. We collaborate with organisations to design almost like a recruitment day for them. So, depending on the daily tasks of someone in your organisation, we co-design what that experience could look like for that day. We start with the positive psychology; we do some hands-on stuff, we get women that work in your organisation to come to do a panel, and then towards the end of the day, get the HR person or whoever would be working with these participants to go and talk about the application process, what jobs are available and things like that. So, a call to action for all of our programs, whether with a client directly as a recruitment tool or with the TAFE and a broader industry approach, is that call to action for employment. So, we'll always bring employers in at the end of the program to discuss the next steps, what they're looking for in candidates and all those things.

    Host: Congratulations on the huge impact that you're having.

    Hacia: Thank you. Thank you. It's so rewarding to see women, even in a one-day program, come in shy, with some self-doubt, not sure what they can do, uh, questioning why they're there, to walking out with the confidence of I want to do a pre-apprenticeship or I want to apply for this role. And we see that. We see women who come and just spend one day at a manufacturing facility, for example, understand what a trade assistant role is and fall in love with it and say, I want to apply for that role there, and they're on the day. So, it's incredible to see the transformation that can happen in just one day.

    Host: Brilliant. And you've highlighted such essential points today, um, about the importance of building your confidence for a female in a particular area through practical experiences, understanding the pathways into a trade-related career, making decisions about which trade to go into, and then when they're in there being resilient and educating those around them, how they want to be treated, and also not putting up with, uh, any poor behaviour. Is there anything we've missed today that you'd like to touch on for our audience, uh, women listening in today?

    Hacia: It comes back to courage to step outside your comfort zone. When we step outside our comfort zone, that's where our personal growth comes from. That's where we widen the boundaries of what we can do. So having that self-belief that you can step outside your comfort zone, you won't know what you don't know, and that's okay, especially in the trade-based industry. That's why it's a four-year apprenticeship. It's a learning curve for absolutely everyone. You've got those four years to make mistakes, to learn, to have a master tradesperson ahead of you teaching you, guiding you, mentoring you, which is incredible. In the accounting industry, junior accountants are often just thrown in the deep end and copy the person in the jobs before they worked. They usually have less support than you are in the trade.

    So, it's just come back to that, lean into self-doubt, and turn that into self-belief. Step outside that comfort zone, crack at it, ask questions, be curious, and explore the industry because there are many opportunities. There are many different pathways, and it's an inspiring career path. But the first step is getting over that; I can't because I'm a woman, and so many people have that. I had that when I first went into my family factory, and they're like, here you go. Here's an arc welder; start welding. I was like, “I’m a woman; how can I weld?” And again, that was the wrong thought. And so, question those thoughts when you say, I can't do this because I'm a woman or something negative, and turn that into a positive. It's an industry with so many opportunities, you can stay there for a lifetime, and it's fun.

    Host: What a brilliant way to end the podcast today. I loved that. Lean into self-belief and turn it into self-confidence. I think that's our message for the podcast today. It's been a pleasure meeting you, Hacia, and I'll say goodbye.

    Hacia: Thank you very much. It's been fantastic.

    Host: WITS About Us is brought to you by MIGAS Apprentices & Trainees. MIGAS can employ you as an apprentice in your chosen trade, match you with a host organisation and guide you through until you're a qualified tradesperson. Subscribe now so you don't miss out when each episode drops.


About the Podcast

This project is funded under the grant program by Trade Pathways Program - Training Services NSW.

Find an Apprenticeship with MIGAS

If you want to become a tradesperson, consider an apprenticeship with MIGAS. We’ll help you find a great place to work and guide you every step of the way until you’re fully qualified.

To find an apprenticeship with MIGAS, visit our Jobs Board.


Published 26/06/2023

In the spirit of reconciliation, MIGAS Apprentices & Trainees acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and emerging, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.