August 12th, 2016

In an effort to remember the history of women in the workforce and challenge existing mindsets of women in trades, the SALT Tradeswomen Australia Conference made a debut launch at Wollongong Town Hall, New South Wales, on August 11th and 12th. Launched by President of SALT Fi Shewring, the unique event aimed to attract more women to enter non-traditional trades, a movement that will be of focus during National Skills Week in August and September with the aid of Vocational Education and Training.

According to 2015 report Ducks on the Pond: Women in Trade Apprenticeships, ‘despite a shortage of skilled tradespeople, only a small number of young women ever consider applying for an apprenticeship in a traditional trade, and if they do, they do not always receive a warm welcome when they venture on ground that many men see as their own’.

SALT, otherwise known as Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen, was founded in 2009 by a group of women who were determined to change these out-dated but existing attitudes toward women in trades, and make women believe that they are capable to take up a trade and be successful in it. “Everybody thinks women are only just starting to work in the trades, but it’s not true,” Fi said to the ABC this week.

When discussing the SALT Tradeswoman Australia Conference with the ABC, Fi said that people tend to forget the crucial role women played in trades throughout history, making specific reference to the work they did in war time industries, which saw them take over a number of technical jobs from their male counterparts such as working with machinery, building vehicles and driving trains. On August 11th and 12th, the SALT Conference used this example to help women realise they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

The SALT conference comes at a time when National Skills Week will launch in major states and territories nationwide from August 24th to encourage more women to realise their full potential across a number of sectors that are still predominately male dominated. Vocational Education and Training has showcased and embraced women in trades, and employers are currently seeking to urgently fill gender gaps and imbalances that exist in a number of trade led sectors, often turning to professionals that have been trained through a VET pathway.

“There are definitely more women in trades today in comparison to ten years ago, but they still only make up the minority and National Skills Week aims to remedy this by informing women on the many different trade pathways available to them through Vocational Education and Training,” General Manager at SkillsOne Kirstin Casey said.

A number of inspiring women success stories have emanated from VET, and National Skills Week invites Australian Training Awards Alumni and Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors to join in on the week- long celebrations to share their personal stories, and motivate other women to connect their passions to a prosperous career outcome, no matter what sector they desire to be involved in.

Australian Training Award’s 2015 Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year Sandra Van Der Gaag believes that VET made her realise her true potential. Sandra wanted to extend her training beyond her qualifications in engineering, and turned to Vocational Training as the best avenue to gain technical and hands on skills. She completed a Certificate III in Process Plant Operations and is currently permanently employed as a Process Plant Operator, an outcome she believes was made possible by VET.

“My experience shows that VET can often offer the best pathway to the career you’re after. I’m working in a very responsible, professional capacity in a job I love,” Sandra said. During her training, VET also provided Sandra with the opportunity to take up a traineeship, which she describes as a great experience. “I received extensive practical experience along with support when I needed it,” she said.

Sandra’s win at the Australian Training Awards in 2015 only cemented her confidence, proving to her that the challenges she initially faced were a momentous personal achievement. “I stepped outside my comfort zone to make this move and you need to have self-belief when you do that. For me the award is an affirmation of that self-belief and it’s great that my efforts have been recognised.”

For further information on Sandra’s story or that of other Australian Training Awards Alumni and Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors visit and

Join us during National Skills Week and celebrate how VET embraces women and recognises the crucial role they play in furthering Australia’s economy and identity. Organise an event, or take part in the many events that can be found on the National Skills Week website:

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