Tess Coverdale, 19, from Bairnsdale, is among a growing number of women choosing a trade as a career.
Tess, who attended Nagle College in Bairnsdale, is undertaking an apprenticeship as a refrigeration mechanic with East Gippsland Refrigeration and Airconditioning.
She wasn’t drawn to traditional jobs women in the bush tend to gravitate to, such as a nurse, receptionist or a clerical assistant, telling the News she knew being indoors would “make me go crazy.”
After seeing an advertisement in the local newspaper for an apprentice refrigeration mechanic, Tess applied and was granted an interview.
She obviously impressed because she was awarded the job from a pool of other applicants, which included women.
Tess says her parents are proud of her decision to undertake a trade which involves a four year apprenticeship.
Father, Steve Coverdale, is an auto electrician in Bairnsdale and as a youngster
Tess was always interested in the work he did.
“I worked with Dad a lot and used to follow him around, doing what he did,” Tess said.
For Tess, job satisfaction is key and says she achieves that every day in her apprenticeship.
“I was interested in a job where it is hands on and I can see a result at the end of each day,” she said.
Tess says she was also seduced by the element of surprise.
“In this line of work there is never a typical day. Every day is different, it’s always changing and you never know what you’re going to get, but rarely do you do the same thing each day,” she said.
Tess could be crawling under a house one day and climbing through a roof the next and says she usually goes home filthy.
“You wouldn’t do this job if you wanted to stay clean each day,” she laughs.
Tess says her boss, Tom Cameron, is supportive, regularly checking in with her to make sure she is okay.
While she admits some days the work is hard, she credits her work colleagues who are always ready to assist and teach her new skills.
Tess says it doesn’t bother her that she’s the only female working among a group of guys and gets along with everyone.
“I think if other women want to do a trade then they should go for it. It isn’t as hard being the only female as people make it out to be.”
Tess says she hasn’t met anyone yet “that thinks it’s strange that I’m a female in a male dominated industry.”
The Victorian Government is also committed to encouraging women to undertake trade apprenticeships.
The State Government recently launched a new strategy to encourage more women to consider a career in construction.
The Minister for Industrial Relations, Tim Pallas, launched Victoria’s first Women in Construction Strategy with three initial programs to help make the concept a reality.
The strategy, costing $500,000, includes a new online jobs portal for women candidates who are looking for roles in the construction industry, providing employment opportunities as well as recruitment and training support, career counselng and resume services.
It also incorporates a training program developed by the Victorian Trades Hall Council to create respectful relationships on construction sites. Trained officers visit sites to educate workers and employers about gendered violence in the workplace and how best to support others.
A new set of recruitment standards and practices for the construction industry will also be developed by the Master Builders Association of Victoria.
Existing recruitment practices and polices will be reviewed to identify gender bias in current industry thinking and the notions around ‘fitting in’.
More women are active in the Victorian labour market than ever before, but they make up only two per cent of the workers in Australian construction – the country’s most male-dominated industry.
The Women in Construction Strategy is based on three key themes: attract, recruit and retain.
It was developed with the Building Industry Consultative Council, which is made up of employers, industry associations and unions.
The State Government has set a 50 per cent target for women on Victorian Government boards and has pledged to eliminate the gender pay gap.
PICTURED: Tess Coverdale, of Bairnsdale, loves her job as an apprentice refrigeration mechanic and thinks more women should consider a trade.