To mark International Women’s Day, Weld Australia is calling on the Federal Government to implement a proactive, targeted approach that: engages and recruits women into the trades; implements innovative trade training programs designed specifically for women; and sets measurable gender diversity targets on government-funded projects.
According to Weld Australia CEO, Geoff Crittenden, “Australia will have a shortfall of at least 70,000 welders by 2030. Industry is already at capacity. Weld Australia’s members are currently operating at 50% to 70% capacity, and turning away work because they cannot find enough welders.”
“Increasing diversity in the trades is one of the best ways to alleviate the looming skills shortage. Every effort needs to be made to encourage women to become welders,” said Crittenden.
“There are significant economic benefits for women in welding, from increased choice and availability of jobs, through to improved job security, higher than average pay and ample opportunities for progression and promotion. A career in welding is safe and secure—once you’re qualified, you can walk into a job tomorrow. Welding is in-demand because it is essential to the success of so many industries,” said Crittenden.
The five-year pipeline of major federally-funded infrastructure projects is valued at $237 billion. On top of this, a veritable army of skilled welders will need to be assembled to build and install the wind and transmission towers, solar farms and other power generation assets needed to achieve the Federal Government’s 43% emissions reductions target by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Plus, there are countless projects in Defence, state government funded projects, and private developments.
With all these government-funded projects in play, measurable gender diversity targets on government-funded projects would have a huge impact. In effect since 1 January 2022, the Victorian Government’s Building Equality Policy (BEP) is an Australian first and aims to disrupt gender stereotypes in the country’s most male-dominated industry. The BEP applies to new government projects, and mandates female representation in at least 3% of each trade role, 7% of each non-trade position and 35% of management, supervisor and specialist labour roles. It also mandates that 4% of labour hours for apprentices and trainees are performed by women.
“If the Federal Government mandated a policy similar to Victoria’s Building Equality Policy, then the necessary recruitment and training programs would follow,” said Crittenden.
Weld Australia is working on several grassroots programs designed to encourage young women to pursue a career in welding. Just one of these is the Advanced Manufacturing Outreach Program in New South Wales.
Currently the best STEM education Program in Australia, it relies upon the use of augmented reality welding simulators to give kids a real welding experience. To date, 82 welding simulators are installed at 40 high schools across New South Wales. These simulators are used to teach students in Year 9 to develop an understanding of welding across all common processes in a completely safe and controlled environment. The technology is also being utilised by students in years 10-12 to support the delivery of Manufacturing and Engineering and Industrial Technology (Metal), as part of MEM20413 Certificate II in Engineering Pathways.
“The Advanced Manufacturing Outreach Program is unique because it actually engages kids. It is hands-on, fun and educational. It is not just about studying more maths and physics textbooks. The Program uses Seaberry’s Soldamatic augmented reality welding simulators to gamify the learning experience. Anyone can try their hand at the welding simulators and be a star. A lot of these kids have never passed a test in their lives—the light in the kids’ eyes when the simulators gives them the all-clear is really something to see,” said Crittenden.
“The gamification of learning is particularly effective when trying to encourage females, Indigenous Australians, people living with disabilities and those from a disadvantaged background into a career in STEM. Training in schools must be refocused to showcase the opportunities in trades and encourage women and other underrepresented groups into careers in STEM.”
“Gender equity and diversity in the construction and manufacturing industry workforce is a persistent problem that exacerbates skills shortages, reduces economic productivity, and constrains innovation,” said Crittenden.
“In fact, women account for less than one per cent of Australia’s overall welding and fabrication sector. This is a staggering statistic. To put this into perspective, on average, women comprise 48 per cent of Australia’s entire workforce.”
“Encouraging the participation of women in male-oriented industries such as welding, construction and manufacturing is long overdue in ending the cycle of employment disparity, gender pay gap, and representation of women in management positions.”
“Industry research demonstrates that investing in well-paid, secure jobs, expanding the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave scheme, making early childhood education more affordable and accessible, and making workplaces safe from sexual harassment were key to getting women into work. All these measures must be implemented by both our governments and private industry,” said Crittenden.