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Top lady tradies encourage girls to take up the tools this International Women's Day

Published: 24 Feb 2015

The notion of traditional trades being 'men's work' is fast becoming a thing of the past - this will be clearly demonstrated in a series of Women in Trades Master Classes at Canberra Institute of Technology on 12 March in celebration of International Women's Day.

Aiming to increase awareness of the opportunities available to women of all ages who may be considering a trade as a future career, a number of inspiring women who have found success and fulfilling careers in male-dominated trades will lead free interactive morning workshops following International Women's Day.

The CIT event is the initiative of Fiona Mitchell, Director, CIT Trade Skills and Vocational Learning, a successful chef by background and passionate advocate for women in trades. She anticipates that the workshops will engage participants from high schools, women returning to the workforce and those who are looking to reskill.

"We have seen a pleasing increase of women choosing to study an apprenticeship in a non-traditional trade at CIT, and going on to excel in their chosen field," said Ms Mitchell.

"There is still a way to go to balance out the gender disparity in many trade areas, but we are seeing a considerable increase in women in trade apprenticeships at CIT, and with such inspiring success stories, we are confident this trend will continue.

"CIT has taken a proactive approach to increasing female participation in non-traditional trades through establishing the CIT Women in Trades Ambassador program and Women in Trades Working Group. The priority is to work with female tradespeople, industry and employers to identify ways in which we can provide a more supportive network for women across all trade sectors," she said.

"As well as offering great career paths, there are so many opportunities to strive to be the best and gain recognition for excellence in a trade skill while undertaking an apprenticeship at CIT - from industry competitions and awards, to the tradies' Olympics - WorldSkills," Ms Mitchell said.

One of the success stories is Cassandra Austin, who, at 15 years old, was told that culinary was not a career for a woman. After defying the status quo to complete an apprenticeship, she is now a qualified chef, consultant, recipe developer, culinary judge, Australian representative for the Worldchefs Women Leadership Forum and a certified food and wellness coach. She will lead a culinary master class at CIT Reid.

Another is Alex Roy, who completed an apprenticeship in spraypainting, an automotive trade, winning the PPG National Colour Matching Championship in 2013 and the NRMA Future Leader of the Industry Award in 2014. She will lead the automotive master class at CIT Fyshwick.

Michelle Tifan, now an electrician, found an electrical apprenticeship a great way to use her knowledge and interest in science, chemistry and physics. She won a number of CIT and industry awards through her apprenticeship, including Outstanding Electrician and Outstanding Apprentice of the Year. She will lead the electrical master class at CIT Fyshwick.

Brooke Foley (carpentry), Elissa Pirotta (plumbing), and Gabby McGiness (construction) are the other equally inspiring and passionate CIT Women in Trade Ambassadors leading master classes on the day.

"We encourage all women who might be even just a little bit curious about an apprenticeship to come along, meet some inspiring industry leaders, ask questions, and find out what it's all about," Ms Mitchell said.

Event details

What: Women in Trades Master Classes - automotive, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, construction and culinary demonstrations
When: 12 March 2015, 10am-12pm
Where: CIT Reid, CIT Bruce and CIT Fyshwick

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