Big jump in women learning trades in Canterbury video

DEAN KOZANIC/Stuff.co.nz

Joy Lalahi loves being a woman in a male dominated profession.

Joy Lalahi  is enjoying operating a cherry picker in the fresh air, fixing a light fitting in a Christchurch carpark.

An apprentice electrician, she is happy to talk about being a woman in a male-dominated trade.

"Most people are stuck in an office, and I get to be here - how good is that?"  

Lalahi is one of a growing number of women doing jobs in traditional male fields.
DEAN KOZANIC/FAIRFAX NZ

Lalahi is one of a growing number of women doing jobs in traditional male fields.

Lalahi  decided to retrain as an electrician after working as a flight attendant, English tutor and in a supermarket. She is one of a growing number of Canterbury women working in trades and on the rebuild.

A new report reveals 8600 women are employed in construction in the region, a big jump from 3600 two years ago

There were 31,400 women employed in construction nationally.

READ MORE: Read the Ministry for Women report here

Minister for Women Louise Upston said the report was aimed at boosting women's career choices and making better use of the female workforce. 

Nearly 18 per cent of Canterbury's construction workers are female, compared with just over 14 per cent nationally. And the number of women training in trades at Christchurch Polytechnic (CPIT), has jumped 800 per cent in four years - from just 50 in 2011 to 414 last year.

Upston said the lessons learned in Canterbury could be used to encourage employers, industry, training groups and schools nationally to get more women into trades and construction. 

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The report tracks the loss of many female-dominated jobs after the earthquakes, and how plumbers and electricians earn considerably more than hairdressers and childcare workers.

Upston said that with some employers struggling to fill jobs and rising demand for skilled workers, encouraging women into trades was important.

"These industries are likely to drive New Zealand's growth in the next five to 10 years, so it makes good business sense to attract women to trade industries," she said.

"My message to employers is to consider all workers when they recruit for their industries."

Lalahi is now employed at Canterbury University and has no problems being in a male-dominated field.  "I feel like I have to prove myself, but you have to do that with any job."

A single mother of two boys, she is 32 now and retrained in her late 20s.

"Some single mums would see doing this as an impossible job, but it's not. It does require training and commitment."

Lalahi believes many other women would enjoy learning a trade.

"Give it a whirl. It's heaps of fun."

 - Stuff

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