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Podcast: Redefining Career Paths – Why Trades Matter for Women

Podcast Redefining Career Paths

Peta Skujins from Integrated Information Service joins the WITS About Us podcast for episode 3 of the 6-part series on Women in Trades.

Welcome to episode 3 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 episode, we interview Peta Skujins from Integrated Information Service.

Hosted by Stacey Wallace, General Manager of MiTraining, we delve into [name'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 are interested in electrical, automotive, or engineering trades like fitting and turning, this podcast covers everything.

Access more information, updates, and 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 3

Episode 3 Transcript

  • Read the WITS About Us Podcast transcript

    Host: Welcome to the WITS About Us Podcast Episode 3, where we connect women and their parents and caregivers to information and resources to help them succeed in a traditional trade apprenticeship. Hi Peta, it's lovely to meet you.

    Peta: Thank you, Stacey. Lovely to be here today.

    Host: You are a researcher and run a national apprenticeship information service. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

    Peta: My pathway into the apprenticeship industry was probably a bit different than many people's because I came through an academic path. My background is in research. I started my career by doing my PhD in Psychology. After that, I moved into vocational education and training research, and then, from there, I transitioned into apprenticeships.

    Over the last six or seven years, I've worked at a national information service about apprenticeships and traineeships. I work closely with students, job hunters, employers, and people across the Australian apprenticeship industry to provide the information they need to help them with their career pathways.

    The apprenticeship industry is a fabulous place to work. It brings together many of my passions, which revolve around helping people, especially with their employment and education journeys. Employment and education are foundational and crucial aspects of people's lives. Being able to assist people with valuable information and resources can make a significant difference. Apprenticeships also keep us on the cutting edge of what's happening in the world of work. This has led to some fascinating work that we've been able to undertake.

    Host: I love that! 'Apprenticeships around the cutting edge.' They are because they're teaching young people exactly what they need to know to be successful in the workplace. Why is it important for more young women to consider traditional trade apprenticeships?

    Peta: I mean, there are so many reasons why traditional trades are a fantastic pathway. I'll start by mainly talking about young women. First, we need more young women in traditional trades because we simply don't have enough at the moment. They're a fantastic career pathway for anyone, but currently, they are male-dominated. The number of women or non-binary people entering traditional trades is not at the level we'd like to see.

    Some benefits of a traditional trade include being at the cutting edge of technological changes and the future of work, making them a solid long-term career pathway. They also offer good pay, which can help address the gender pay gap. It's crucial to provide women and non-binary people with opportunities to move into these high-quality roles. Additionally, we face a massive skill shortage across our trades, making them excellent career choices for long-term sustainability.

    Trades are an ideal fit for those who want to work with their hands and do something practical. Many women and girls desire such careers but have yet to venture into these trade occupations. Overcoming these barriers will be immensely beneficial for them.

    Now, speaking about trades in general and why we need more people in trade careers, these are growth areas. We're not just talking about the usual industries like construction, manufacturing, mining, and mineral processing. We're also seeing significant growth across new industries and career options, with trades at the forefront. It's a vital growth area for the Australian economy, and we need to encourage more women and girls into these career options. This will help break down barriers and offer them pathways into high-quality careers.

    Host: It's so exciting, isn't it? Being right here and now, there's undeniable growth happening in these industries. One way to counter the skills shortage we're experiencing is to encourage more women into trade-based careers. However, what common misconceptions might deter young women from considering a career as a traditional tradesperson?

    Peta: I think there are a lot of misconceptions about the trades in general. First, there's a misconception that trades aren't for women, which we know isn't true. We've already heard from a fantastic woman in a trade through this podcast series. It's exciting to see women who have already navigated these pathways. So, the idea that trades are too dirty, too heavy, or not the right environment for women is simply not proper. While it might only suit some women, it's also unsuitable for all men. We need to consider who it's right for as an individual, not just based on their gender.

    There's also a misconception that trades are dying out, especially in areas like manufacturing or mining. Some believe there will be few career opportunities in these fields. However, this is different. Not only are we seeing growth in new industries and areas related to the net-zero economy and circular economy, but we're also witnessing significant growth in manufacturing as Australia aims to enhance our sovereign capability workforce. This ensures that we can build and manufacture things domestically. In mining, our shift to a net-zero economy will require a vast amount of minerals, many of which are predominantly found in Australia. In some cases, up to a quarter or a third of these essential minerals and metals needed for net zero are in Australia.

    Construction is another significant industry for trade. There are construction booms across the country, from domestic housing builds to large infrastructure projects. In almost every industry, we're seeing growth. We're facing both skill shortages, as we need more tradies right now and anticipate massive change. If we don't encourage more diverse individuals into the trades, we'll face significant challenges in the next 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years. These careers are vital. They offer longevity, allowing individuals to build a career pathway and potentially retire after 50 or 60 years. There's a vast amount of growth to consider.

    Host: This is critical for the sustainability of our economy. One way to counterbalance those misconceptions is to remove gender from career decision-making entirely. Instead, we should focus on the individual, their strengths, and their interests. We should also connect them to information about newly emerging areas, like green energy. With that in mind, how can parents and educators better support young women who express interest in traditional trade apprenticeships? How can they help those who might not say it but would be excellent candidates for this area?

    Peta: Yeah. I believe there's a significant role that parents, educators, and other family and friends can play in supporting young women. These influences are crucial from the time they're born through to their career transitions. It's well-known that parents are the primary influence on their children's career decisions. So, if you're a young woman's parent, you have a significant role. You're the person who will influence her choices more than anyone else. This is a vital responsibility.

    There are several steps you can take to guide your daughters or children in their career decisions. First, exploring strengths, weaknesses, and career options is essential. If your daughter is in school and considering which subjects to pursue in years 9 through 12, express your support for any path she chooses, even if she might be the only girl in the class. Engage with teachers, career advisors, or counsellors to understand the landscape and the potential areas she might consider.

    Work experience is another valuable avenue. Young men, like parents or friends, often get connected to trades through their networks. However, young girls might have different opportunities. So, if you can, support your daughter in exploring these pathways. Perhaps you know someone in a trade who could offer her work experience. Initiate conversations about the pros and cons of various careers. Every job has its highs and lows, and realistic discussions are crucial.

    Numerous resources are available if you want to go beyond general discussions. The National Careers Institute offers information for all of Australia, while Careers in New South Wales provides valuable insights, including connections with industry professionals. These tools can help dispel misconceptions about trades, which many believe to be repetitive and unchanged over time. In the apprenticeship sector, we know this is different. Trades have evolved significantly over the years. However, understanding these changes can be challenging for those not connected to the industry. Connecting with someone in the field can enlighten parents and young individuals considering these career pathways.

    Host: That is so interesting! Some absolutely amazing resources are available where individuals can even engage in discussions with industry professionals. It's truly fabulous. What would you say are some of the skills and competencies that traditional trade apprenticeships offer? Specifically, which of these are particularly beneficial for women in the workplace?

    Peta: Yes, traditional trades often have the perception of being highly manual and repetitive, but that's not the case for many of them anymore. Particularly in fields like electrical, plumbing, and carpentry, which are some of our major trade areas, there's a shift across the board. Tradespeople now need to develop a range of cognitive abilities. For instance, communication skills are essential. We know those in trades must communicate effectively within their teams and often with the general public. This so-called 'soft skill' is crucial in one's career and personal life.

    Moreover, critical thinking is paramount. Most tradespeople enter workplaces where problem-solving is a daily task. Whether diagnosing an issue in someone's home or working on a new build, they engage in high-level critical thinking. Such skills, often associated with more academic professions, are vital in trades.

    The beauty of a trade is its practicality. While it's only sometimes hands-on due to the increasing use of technology, there's still a significant element of hands-on work. Tradespeople often speak about their passion for doing something tangible and the satisfaction derived from building or creating something. Solving a client's problem or fulfilling an industry need brings immense gratification.

    These competencies and skills are applicable throughout one's life and form a foundation in an apprenticeship. These skills can be built upon as one progresses, leading to higher roles, such as a supervisor or building manager.

    Host: I concur and can echo your thoughts there. I worked with the MIGAS recruitment team for a while. When we interviewed host employers about what they sought in a candidate, they often prioritised personal skills over technical ones. They emphasised qualities like communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, as you mentioned, and above all, attitude. They desired someone passionate about the trade, someone eager to show up and learn. They expressed a willingness to teach the technical skills on the job. That's the beauty of an apprenticeship: you're getting paid to learn. Can you share your experience or understanding of how vital this aspect is when undertaking an apprenticeship and acquiring those skills while working?

    Peta: Yeah, an apprenticeship is primarily a learning opportunity. While working for an employer, which is crucial, the emphasis is on learning. Employers will tell you the same. Being eager to show up, having the right attitude, and understanding that you are in a learning phase are vital for a positive apprenticeship experience. This benefits both the employer, who is teaching, and the apprentice, who is absorbing and progressing. Some of our trade apprenticeships can last up to four years, so a significant amount of learning is involved. You need someone passionate about education, ready to start from scratch, and often willing to start at the bottom and work their way up. Of course, some individuals enter an apprenticeship with some skills, especially if they've completed a pre-apprenticeship. But, the primary focus is learning and honing your trade skills. Having those soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and a positive attitude is what employers seek.

    One aspect we sometimes overlook is that while apprentices work and learn on the job, they also undergo off-the-job training for their qualifications. This requires time management and dedication. When entering an apprenticeship, it's essential to expect skill development to be an ongoing journey. This brings me to another crucial point: apprenticeships prepare young individuals for lifelong learning. We know that continuous learning is a part of careers. People already in the workforce are adapting to new technologies and acquiring new skills. This trend will only intensify, and apprenticeships set the foundation for that. Having the right attitude and a willingness to dive in, learn, and develop skills that will benefit them throughout their careers is precisely what we hope to see.

    Host: That's an excellent point. Essentially, undertaking an apprenticeship, learning how to learn, and developing that passion for learning become crucial for the entirety of one's career. I want to discuss career development. Often, we view a career as a linear pathway. There's a misconception that if we choose a trade career, we can't later pursue university, or vice versa. Are individuals at different career stages seeking out your services for information? Maybe they followed a different path when they were younger and are now considering a change. It's important to understand that it's not a dichotomy. One cannot choose exclusively between the two; one can pursue both.

    Peta: Absolutely. As you've mentioned, there are many pathways, and it's only sometimes a linear journey. We've noticed that many people who contact us have already explored different ways. Interestingly, when we look at female tradies, they often tend to be older than their male counterparts. One reason might be that they didn't pursue a trade immediately after school, like many young men. This could be due to misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding women in trades.

    However, with experience, they build their self-confidence and often decide to start an apprenticeship. They might be entering an entry-level position, but they bring a wealth of other skills. Some might have pursued a university degree or obtained a qualification from a training provider in a different industry. They might have even worked in that industry for a while before realising it wasn't for them. For instance, they might only enjoy sitting at a desk during the day and prefer hands-on work.

    Once someone starts an apprenticeship, it's not the end of their learning journey. They can pursue further studies, whether it's another vocational qualification or a university degree. Many integrated pathways allow for credit transfers between vocational education and universities. Additionally, many personal development and non-accredited training opportunities are available.

    Regarding career progression, many tradespeople eventually move into supervisory or management roles. Owning a business is another fantastic pathway, especially for women who value flexibility in the workforce. While some tradespeople might choose to stay hands-on throughout their careers, which is commendable, there are numerous opportunities to transition within the industry or even to different sectors. The skills developed during an apprenticeship are highly transferable and can be applied in various roles and industries.

    Host: The employers I've spoken to, especially those who employ tradies, have expressed a growing demand for professional development, leadership, management, and human-centred skills. This is something that MiTraining, a subsidiary of MIGAS, offers. We're observing an increasing number of hosts enrolling for this training, especially those who have transitioned into supervisory roles. It's truly remarkable to witness. With this trend in mind, how do you envision the landscape of traditional trade apprenticeships for women evolving over the next five to ten years? This is especially pertinent given the current groundswell and heightened interest in these sectors.

    Peta: In the short term, specifically over the next five to ten years, we will witness a significant increase in women entering trades. Some states are already experiencing this trend, especially where state governments actively promote workforce diversity. Numerous initiatives are currently in place to support women in trades. This surge is not only due to governmental efforts but also because of the advocacy from tradeswomen encouraging their peers to join the industry.

    Additionally, the broader economic landscape and the prevalent skill shortages are compelling employers to reconsider their hiring practices. Many who might not have previously considered hiring a female apprentice are now exploring this option.

    With the influx of women into the trades, I anticipate several positive shifts in the industry. One of the most notable changes will be in the workplace culture. Historically, some trades have been characterised by a 'blokey' culture, which has deterred many women. However, efforts are underway to transform this culture into more inclusive and welcoming. This change is already evident in many sectors and will likely continue to gain momentum.

    Furthermore, the nature of work within trades is evolving rapidly. It's easier to go a day after hearing about the impact of AI and other technological advancements on various industries.

    Host: Yes,

    Peta: Technology is rapidly transforming the entire economy and all occupations. These shifts will significantly impact those in the trades, influencing their daily tasks, the programs they implement, and the tools they use. Consequently, the training and skills required will also evolve. We'll witness an increase in technological capability among apprentices and qualified tradespeople. Starting at the apprenticeship level provides an excellent opportunity to be at the forefront of these changes. This approach can introduce new technologies into the industry, especially when established tradespeople might be more focused on their current work and less on continuous learning.

    Apprentices can play a pivotal role in advancing the adoption of new technologies. In the coming years, we'll observe changes in who is entering the trades, shifts in workplace culture, and the nature of the work tradespeople undertake. The rapid changes in the landscape can be daunting, but they also present numerous opportunities for those evaluating their career options.

    Host: Absolutely. The more women entering trade-based careers, the greater the push for a cultural shift will be. So, what can we do to make workplaces more inclusive for women entering the sector?

    Peta: I think there's a lot we can do, starting with the employer. Cultural changes often come from the existing workforce and the employer. We know many excellent employers have already hired female apprentices and have female tradespeople working for them. First, congratulations to those employers already doing fantastic work; it's crucial. More employers will be joining this trend. Networking and collaboration across workplaces and employers are vital. Many will learn from others who are already succeeding in these environments.

    It's essential to have a welcoming workplace that is open to hiring female apprentices or tradespeople. Listen to them. Understand their wants and challenges in the workplace. I attended a fantastic event earlier this year discussing women in construction. Many of the challenges they face are things employers can address. This includes understanding parental leave for female and male employees, considering childcare arrangements, and ensuring basic facilities for women on-site, like toilets and safe spaces. Even providing appropriate PPE is crucial.

    Supervisors should stand against any inappropriate behaviour and be willing to mentor and support their female apprentices and other tradespeople on site. There's significant work that employers are already doing, and there are steps they can take to make the workplace more welcoming.

    Moreover, the work that our current female tradespeople are doing is commendable. Numerous organisations across Australia, like Empowering Women in Trades, Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen, and Tradeswomen Australia, support current female apprentices and tradespeople. These networks offer the chance to discuss challenges, share tips and tricks, and sometimes just vent about daily experiences. They're pushing the industry and employers to improve and ensure that career information reaches young girls and women. They promote the real benefits of trade career pathways. In essence, changes are coming from both the employer and the female tradesperson sides.

    Host: Thank you, Peta. It's lovely to hear that it is coming from both ends, and the board level of an organisation must endorse it. That influence filters right through the company. On that note, as we can see the cultural shifts within organisations, we're also starting to see economic growth. How will having more women in trades impact Australia and our workforce needs?

    Peta: Okay, workforce needs are significant at the economy-wide scale. As I said, around 50% of our trades are in current skills shortage. What that means is that employers need to be able to hire people with the skills they need in the open roles. This impacts productivity and innovation. Employers needing help finding the right people for jobs might overwork their staff. This leaves no room for changes or taking on projects outside their core business, stifling innovation. It might also mean passing on different types of projects. This drives up costs. When you can't find people to do the jobs needed, you pay more to get someone to do it, which is a significant economic challenge.

    By getting more women and diverse individuals into trades, we'll have a larger pool of skilled workers. This could help alleviate some of those skill shortages. We don't necessarily want an oversupply of tradespeople, but given the current situation, there's no risk of that in the short, medium, or long term. This is our most acute skill shortage area, and we have massive future demand projected. We must act quickly to train more people and retain them in the industry, ensuring a continuous pipeline of skilled workers.

    At an individual level, trades are among the higher-paying occupation groups. Getting more women into these roles can help reduce the gender pay gap, a persistent issue. This would give women greater purchasing power, allowing them to buy homes, cars, and other items, benefiting the economy. It also means women will have a stronger financial position, influencing childcare arrangements and their economic future.

    The more women we can get into trades, the better it is for the women, the employers, and the Australian economy. That's why governments are pushing for change in this area. They recognise the broader impacts of increasing the number of women in trades.

    Host: What are we seeing from the government at the moment?

    Peta: Yes, it does vary across Australia, but at a national level, our Australian government is genuinely investing in the future of apprenticeships. We will see some significant changes in the future, particularly in the next year or so. In the shorter term, there's investment in mentoring and support programs for women in trades, which is a fantastic initiative. As we transition into new arrangements for supporting apprentices in the coming year, we hope to see enhanced career guidance and support for girls considering apprenticeship careers. This includes support for securing a job and ongoing support once employed. It's fantastic to see such investment. Apprenticeships and skills are at the forefront of the Australian government's program changes.

    At a state level, we're observing various initiatives across Australia. Some state governments have implemented skills guarantees, and we expect to see this at a federal level, too. There are requirements for apprentices and trainees to work on government-contracted projects and programs. Additionally, we're seeing gender quotas or other diversity quotas. Employers must hire apprentices, including female apprentices and tradies, for government-funded work. This is a significant driver, especially when the government sets KPIs on their funding to increase the number of women in trades.

    Conversely, there's a focus on career programs in schools. Governments are investing in school students to ensure they receive quality career information. This is typically managed at a state level, so the approach varies by location. The goal is to give young people the information they need to make informed career decisions. We hope to see more resources for parents to help their children make these decisions. This support for parents is only starting to emerge, but it's gaining momentum.

    Host: Yes, career development for students is so important, especially at those critical times when they're making subject selections, as you mentioned earlier. And let's remember the parents. What I find intriguing is the prevalent discussion around practical and hands-on people gravitating towards trade-based careers. However, I recently came across a captivating newspaper article about a young woman who was highly academic. She scored exceptionally well in her ATAR but chose a trade career. So, how can we further encourage individuals who consider themselves academic to pursue trade careers? What steps can we take?

    Peta: Yeah, that's such a great question, and I think that's something the entire industry is grappling with now. First, I'd say that being academic and wanting to do a trade or engage in practical work are not mutually exclusive.

    Host: Exactly.

    Peta: We need intelligent people going into trades. We need all kinds of people going into all sorts of different careers because the more diversity we have there, the better it is for innovation, creativity, and productivity. I would say, first off, a lot of our trades do have significant requirements for their training.

    As I said earlier, you are working on and learning on the job, but you're also going and doing your off-the-job training. That does require perfect language, literacy, and numeracy skills. In some of our trades, it requires excellent math skills. For some, the level of math can be a bit intimidating. Particularly in fields like electrical, there's a lot of math involved. You need to know your angles in carpentry to avoid significant problems. But there's a lot of other math in that trade as well. Just to say it's angles is a bit reductive, but a lot needs to be done there.

    Across many of our trades, employers are looking for people who have finished school and done well in science and mathematics subjects. So, when considering finishing school and deciding on a pathway, whether university, TAFE, or an apprenticeship, we must consider what fulfils us. For some, that's studying from books and listening to lectures. I have to admit that I'm one of those people. I enjoyed going to university. I would have a tough time if I tried to go into a trade, but I appreciate the work that goes on there.

    Many people prefer hands-on, applied, and practical work. However, in many apprenticeships, there is some classroom learning involved. If you think you're going into an apprenticeship and never going to sit in a classroom again, I've got some bad news. Some classroom learning will continue, and there is the theory that apprentices will be trained. So, I think it's less about the dichotomy and more about what fulfils you. If you are keen on a trade career, it doesn't matter whether you think university is a better option or a TAFE course is better. You need to look at what will create the best outcome for your career pathway.

    Host: I love that you are talking about what fulfils us. I mean, what better message is that? Um, we spoke earlier about the importance of parents and for them to explicitly state it's okay for their daughter or son to go in any career they choose. How can we arm parents with the right messages to encourage their daughters to go into a trade-based job, which we've discussed is a lucrative option?

    Peta: I think much needs to be done, especially around awareness-raising. First, the more awareness we can spread that all career options are open to anyone, depending on their passion and direction, the better. But breaking down some of those stereotypes and barriers related to gender is crucial. This often ties back to culture, the media, and the images and messages propagated. We're seeing a lot of changes in this area. Not just targeting parents but targeting all Australians about what a 'tradie' is and what they look like. Nowadays, when people put out images on a billboard or a sign at a bus stop or train station, we see more diverse tradespeople being profiled. This showcases that tradies don't just fit one mould; there's a lot of diversity.

    For parents of younger kids, a lot of media perpetuates the myth around male tradies. However, there's a movement to change this. As a parent, it's about challenging your biases. When you see something different, show it to your kids. It can be challenging for parents whose daughters are considering subject selection or career options. You've had a lifetime of different messages coming through. Challenging your biases and listening to what your daughter wants is essential. This might be as simple as opening up a conversation. For instance, she mentioned how she liked playing with Lego as a kid and asked if she considered careers involving building skills. Listen to her thoughts and maybe challenge any biases she might have.

    Engage with career information as a parent. Talk to teachers at school, attend parent-teacher interviews, and discuss what your daughter enjoys. If there's a career counsellor or specialist, they can also provide guidance. There are many online resources available. Google is a great starting point. Search for information from governments and industry groups about career pathways. Consider what your daughter likes doing and explore options with her.

    Often, influence comes through everyday discussions. It's not necessarily about sitting down with your child and dictating a path. It's about the language you use and the aspirations you discuss. Avoid implying that university is a 'better' or 'higher' education option, which might suggest that an apprenticeship or vocational education is 'lower'. Language plays a significant role, and how you talk with your daughter could be the tipping point.

    Host: Such great advice. It's almost about adopting a curiosity mindset and suspending your assumptions about your daughter. Instead of making assumptions about how things will play out, be curious. Ask open-ended questions and explore online resources to better understand careers she might be interested in. Peta, tell me a little bit about the research you do. What's your topic, and what are you exploring?

    Peta: Yeah, we've done quite a bit of different research over the years. However, a couple of projects I think are particularly relevant to this discussion. We did one project focused on how young people find information about careers. We explored where they go, what they like looking at, and what resonates with them. Something we found quite surprising to us was that young people really like hard-copy resources.

    Host: Wow.

    Peta: Yeah, we were blown away by this because we thought, given that young people are digital natives, they'd be jumping online on their phones for everything. This goes against many of the stereotypes we hold about young people nowadays. However, we found that many young people, particularly when it comes to discussions with their parents, like having something tangible they can take away, hold, look at, point at, and hand over to Mom, Dad, caregiver, uncle, neighbour, or whoever they might be discussing with. They want to say, 'Hey, look at this,' and be able to sit down and go over it together. Often, our online resources need to provide that tactile experience and context for discussion. So, that was a surprising result from our research: young people want tangible help they can discuss and carry around with them. We updated some of our online resources to include hard copies. When you're at a career expo talking with young people, you can give them something tangible to take home, something to jog their memory when they reflect on what they learned.

    Another insight from that research was that, by the upper end of high school (years 10 to 12), many students already have strong beliefs and ideas about their future careers. Suppose they're pursuing a pathway that aligns with societal norms, such as a young man entering a trade or a young woman seeking a university career. In that case, the path and information are easily accessible. However, if they're considering something less typical, finding information or having those discussions can be challenging. For instance, a young woman considering a trade might face challenges due to societal norms. We need to make this information more accessible.

    Another significant research piece we conducted, partly during COVID-19, was about parents' perceptions of the future of work. This was triggered by the idea that 'robots are coming to take our jobs.' While technology and AI are indeed prevalent, history shows that technological changes create jobs. They might displace some roles and change many others, but overall, technological advancements can be beneficial. They create new opportunities and roles but also necessitate lifelong learning. Our research indicated that parents generally needed a more comprehensive understanding of career options. Most people can only name up to 20 occupations, yet hundreds are available. This highlights the need for parents to explore career options with their children and tap into resources that can assist them.

    For instance, while we often mention trades like electrical, carpentry, and plumbing, many other trades exist. Some, like jewellery manufacturing, might be niche, but there are also vast industries like agriculture. With the economic changes caused by net-zero ambitions and the circular economy, many new occupations and roles are emerging. For parents trying to understand these changes, it can be challenging. This emphasises the importance of exploring with your child and tapping into resources to guide you.

    Host: That is such a good point. You've highlighted the importance of another human-centred skill: flexibility and adaptability, especially in an ever-changing industry. We're now incorporating more technology, for example. So, that's an excellent point you've made. Another thing I wanted to mention is that when young people are considering a future apprenticeship, approaching a group training organisation is a brilliant idea—for instance, MIGAS. We employ apprentices, and our website is filled with various jobs. One can understand what they're attracted to by reading the job descriptions.

    Similarly, MIGAS is beginning to explore apprenticeships and the skills required in the green energy sector. We are at the forefront of the changes in the industry, so that's another resource young people can tap into. Peta, as we start to draw to a close on the podcast today, I have a couple of questions for you. What is it that you love about what you do?

    Peta: There's so much to love about working in the apprenticeship space. The fact that we can connect people with information that can genuinely change their lives is incredible. Moving into a career option or an employment or education path that resonates with them, fulfils them, and taps into their passion and purpose is incredibly rewarding for me. That's where I find my goal, and I feel very fortunate to work in this industry. As we've discussed today, choosing the right career can impact an individual, an employer, or a business and even have wide-scale economic effects. Working in this industry means witnessing these impacts across the board. Sometimes, it's seen in a significant statistic; other times, it's in a deeply personal story.

    Talking with tradies, with women whose lives have changed by moving into these careers, or discussing with industry employers the impact of a good decision on their lives is enlightening. It's also about recognising the result of a second or third chance on someone's life. It can be more complex than diving into and loving your first option. Having reliable information resources as a safety net is crucial, and seeing the effects of that makes my job so fantastic.

    Host: And it's just so crucial for all of us — parents, people in the community, educators, and those in government — to get the language right and be conscious of the messages we're giving to young people. They become more set in their influences and decisions as they grow older. What advice would you give to a young woman on the precipice of making a decision and perhaps leaning towards the easy option because it's familiar and they have the information? What would you say to them about considering a traditionally female apprenticeship?

    Peta: There are two tremendous things I'd love to say to these young women. First off, you can change in the future. If you don't like it, you can change. Most people change careers, so that's fine. If you decide to take the option that might seem more accessible or more relevant to you right now, and you want to go and do a trade in the future, then that's an option and a possibility. So, you don't need to feel like the choice you make right now is the last one because that's just different from how careers work. So, you don't need to stress too much about that.

    But if you really are passionate about considering a trade or a career as an option and you're just not sure if it's for you, I would say go and talk to people who are doing it. Connect up with some of the organisations that can support you with that information, whether it's a 'women in trades' type organisation, a group training organisation like MIGAS, or one of the many other apprenticeship-type organisations or career organisations. Go and explore those options. Because if you can get it right now, it can be easier. Again, it doesn't mean you can't change later, but if you can go into something that you really are passionate about and love right now, that will be a great outcome for you.

    Don't be scared of slightly shifting your focus in that as well. We know a lot of the time, we might explore two, three, four, five, or more options and find that maybe they need to be a better one for us. So, it's really about that exploration, that curiosity, going out, and giving it a try if you want to. Talk to people out there to ensure you have a really good, realistic understanding of what might be out there for you.

    Host: Exactly, and you know, we used to say, 'It's all about who I want to be.' But I think now the focus is more on 'Who am I?' So, learning more about ourselves so we can make those career decisions and understanding that the decision you make isn't for the rest of your life. It's your next step, and you can change along the way. And as we said before, careers are not linear. Thank you very much, Peta. It's been an absolute pleasure having you on today, and I know what you've said will help many women in their decision-making. So, thank you.

    Peta: Thank you so much for having me. It's been excellent to help some young women and their parents with those career decisions.

About the Podcast

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

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Published 02/10/2023

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.