Sisters are doing it for their students

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A new TAFE SA course is helping to break the stereotype of ‘welding is just for men.’


Nine women, all qualified high school teachers, are undertaking a nine week Introduction to Basic Welding Processes to gain a better understanding of the trade and to help encourage female high school students to consider the benefits and rewards of a career in welding.


As Australian industry continues to meet the needs of the Australian Government’s National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise, thousands of trade qualified jobs will be created across the country over the coming years.


The demand for trade qualified workers will include welders, light and heavy metal fabricators, electricians, mechanics, plumbers and others.


Ian Irving, Chief Executive of the Naval Shipbuilding College, said developing a national naval shipbuilding capability to successfully deliver the Enterprise will require a skilled and diverse workforce.


“There should be no perception that there are gender specific roles within naval shipbuilding,’’ he said.


“As an industry we are taking the lead to ensure a diverse, equal opportunity workforce is created.


“Employers welcome any person who possesses the right training, skills and attitude for the job.


“The Naval Shipbuilding College applauds TAFE SA and the Advanced Technology Program for getting on the front foot with this innovative approach.’’


The nine week course was funded by the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and delivered by TAFE SA at their Regency Park campus.


ATP Program Manager Dr Sarah Baker said supporting the basic skills development and face-to-face micro-credentialing of the teachers will help teach welding skills and link these skills to career prospects for many secondary school students.


“This enables more students, both male and female, to ‘see’ where these skills could take them in the future, including naval shipbuilding and other Defence industry careers,’’ she said.


Director, Strategic Industry Partnerships at TAFE SA, Penny Johnston, said helping provide female teachers with hands on welding skills and insights into the high level of skill required, and the opportunity for careers on long term shipbuilding projects, could help foster engagement and uptake in vocational careers by young women while they were still in high school.


“I think the earlier we can engage with people considering a trade career, the better,’’ she said.


“Teachers want students to be excited about their future job prospects and career opportunities and assist them to reach their goals.


“It was very important for the teachers to hear first-hand from the naval shipbuilding industry to help them understand the enormous job and career opportunities that are available within the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.’’


Apprentice is living the dream


Discover how this young woman found her dream job with naval shipbuilding


Working on Collins Class Submarines and Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels has been a dream come true for ASC’s 25-year-old, metal fabricating apprentice Evyenia Kontakos.


She said ASC provided a progressive workplace environment with flexible rosters, opportunities for professional advancement and a great culture.


“I’m working on some of the most technologically advanced projects in the world today,’’ Evyenia said.


“There’s not lot of people who can say that. My work is physical and challenging, the hours are great and the pay is excellent.


“It’s everything I want in a job.’’


During high school Evyenia and her female friends never considered taking metal work classes or other technical study or design opportunities.


“I used to think it was ‘male only’ back then and my female friends were the same,’’ she said.


“As girls we were encouraged to concentrate on being teachers or getting into the real estate industry, trades just never came into the picture.


“Teachers never expected young women wanting to do a job like welding or metal fabricating.’’

However, after finishing school Evyenia and many of her friends weren’t put off searching for a trade qualification and enrolled at TAFE SA to become farriers.


Evyenia started on the same path by enrolling for a Certificate II in Engineering (Metal Fabrication) but ‘fell in love’ with welding along the way.


“I have always enjoyed a job that challenges me and has a physical side to it,’’ she said.


“Welding requires strong hand-eye coordination skills and it’s not something that everyone else can do. Once I started on welding I didn’t want to do anything else.’’


Evyenia said increased support for young women considering a trade career continues to develop.


“The Naval Shipbuilding College’s Workforce Register is a definite help for people wanting to find work or how to become qualified for work in the defence industry,’’ she said.


“And having more women teaching technical classes at high school can make a difference in attracting more girls to try it out. For some young women, speaking to another woman can feel more comfortable.’’


Evyenia sees herself in the same industry 10 years from now, hopefully in a supervisor or quality role.


“I don’t want to leave this industry, I love the work and I’ve already bought a house,’’ she said.


“After spending time working on a boat or ship, to see it sail out for the last time is incredibly rewarding.


“I always stay up to date with the news so I hear about where the boat is or what it’s doing around the world and I take a lot of pride in that.


“I know I contributed to the success of that vessel, and it is helping keep our country, and the people sailing it, safe.’’

Please note: images contained in this article took place before COVID-19 social distancing restrictions were in place. The College is currently following whole-of-government guidance from the Department of Health in relation to COVID-19.

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