In order to increase the ranks of female tradeworkers and keep more apprentices engaged on the job, in July last year, Minister for Training and Skills Development Di Farmer asked the Queensland Training Ombudsman to review the support measures available to apprentices and trainees across the state.
Following the release of the report, the government today announced it has accepted all 12 recommendations by the Ombudsman. Minister Farmer said seven of the 12 recommendations relate to improvements for female apprentices.
“Gender equity continues to be a priority for the Palaszczuk Government and that includes women training in traditionally male-dominated industries – this Report outlines ways we can achieve real change.”
“Unfortunately, we still have instances where trainees and apprentices, in particular women, are made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the workplace and this is simply not acceptable,” Minister Farmer said.
“We must remove these barriers so trainees and apprentices can confidently complete their training.”
Ann-Marie Allan, the Chief Executive of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union says they frequently have female apprentices and trainees seeking help to deal with shocking bullying and harassment at work.
“It’s not a little fight on the job or a one-off incident, it’s a consistent pattern of bad behaviour, bullying and sexual harassment,” said Ms Allan.
“They get passed around because no one wants to take responsibility for it, and the damage gets even worse, it affects their dignity and self-respect.”
“The culture overall needs to be looked at and I congratulate the Government for taking action.”
The recommendations outline additional ways to boost female participation and include engaging Construction Skills Queensland, Energy Skills Queensland, the Furnishing industry, the Motor Trades Association of Queensland and the upcoming Manufacturing Skills Queensland to develop strategies for the employment of more women.
“Female trade participation in Queensland is almost at 5 per cent, and we know we can do so much better,” Minister Farmer said.
“Public bodies like QBuild have set targets for female participation, and currently 16 per cent of our apprentices are women.
“Last year QBuild set the benchmark high and achieved 31 per cent women on the worksite for their social housing exemplar project at Cannon Hill, with 22 per cent of the frontline workforce including women in trades like plumbing, electrical, fencing and painting.
“My department has a 15 per cent target for women in frontline construction roles on the $100 million ‘Equipping TAFE for our future’ capital infrastructure program.
“This is above the 11 per cent target set by the National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC), which aims to have an industry workforce that is 25 per cent women by 2025.”
Minister Farmer said services would be made available for apprentices to provide direct individual support and ultimately, help narrow the gap in completion rates between male and female apprentices.
“A Train to Retain Strategy will be implemented which includes digital resources for apprentices and trainees and a triage service for all callers to the Apprentice Info Line to provide individual support,” Minister Farmer said.
“In 2020-21, almost 17 per cent of all apprenticeships were commenced by women, and just under 50 per cent completed their training compared to 71 per cent of male apprentices.
“We need to make sure that all apprentices and trainees – Queensland’s future workforce – have positive training experiences so they go on to complete their qualifications, are confident in their abilities and can secure employment.”
Queensland Training Ombudsman Geoff Favell said the report’s recommendations aim to ensure all apprentices and trainees are provided with supportive, healthy, and safe work environments that foster quality training arrangements.
“The report identifies enhancements that can be made to assist prospective employers, apprentices and trainees, support apprentices, trainees and their employers during the life of their training contract and ensure that where intervention is required it happens in a coordinated and timely manner,” Mr Favell said.
Minister Farmer said more than $1.2 billion invested in the 2022-23 State Budget will deliver high quality training and creating career pathways for Queenslanders.
“Every dollar we invest in skills and training for Queenslanders pays dual dividends – it enriches the lives and employment prospects of students, and it fuels the state’s economy through a highly trained workforce,” Minister Farmer said.
“Investing in skills and training means we are equipping Queenslanders to be job ready and help contribute to their community now and into the future.”