NECA Update: Building equality
A message from NECA Victoria Executive Director, Pawel Podolski
NECA in its role as the peak industry body representing the electrical and communications industry, has been vocally engaging with Government and business leaders on the topic of Building Equality and the quest of creating more training and employment opportunities for women.
Key points that NECA continues to explore as part of ongoing advocacy efforts include:
Building Equality should encourage both tradesand management roles
NECA has repeatedly stated that we believe a career “on the tools” offers women challenging, stimulating, rewarding and financially satisfying opportunities that in turn may lead to other career progression opportunities and pathways within our sector, in business management and/or ownership, teaching and regulatory roles (such as Inspectors), over time.
Setting targets will assist in motivating outcomes, but targets must be realistic
Given the historic low participation rate of women “on the tools” in trades – 2% over 30 years – NECA believes that whilst targets can indeed prove a very powerful incentive mechanism for organisations, they need to be realistic and need to link it to the apprenticeship system. In June 2020, there were 1,210 female apprentices training towards a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, representing 4% of apprentices in this qualification Australia-wide. A strong pipeline of apprentices will become the enabler to any future targets.
To some extent, this applies also to management positions with oversight of frontline operations that are filled with experienced field-based tradespeople - until the number of women entering the trades sector at apprentice level is drastically increased, any similar significant increase in women being promoted to these roles, will by necessity, also be limited. Thus, the imperative to attract female apprentices is heightened, where consideration of such roles are concerned.
Some of the key barriers our industry and government will need to overcome
In order to lift the number of women participating in our trade, there are a number of barriers to address – educational, financial, and cultural. NECA believes the key barriers to being able to achieve gender equality disproportionately relate to the ability to attract female apprentices to the trades sector in the first place. Some others that as a community we will need to overcome, include:
- Adult wage costs discouraging employers to take on mature age apprentices
- Secondary schools having no incentive to promote careers in trade to suitable candidates (including girls), given most schools are ranked based on their performance of guiding students through to tertiary sector.
- Cultural change in the community around the perception that university education offers the best, and broadest, option for school leavers in terms of career choices, earning capacity, personal satisfaction, and reward for effort.
NECA is extremely passionate about boosting the participation of women in the electrical and communications sector. We believe it offers excellent career pathways, which are every bit as rewarding and satisfying as any vocation that might require university qualifications.