Polly Britten is working to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in skilled trades, and is set to head on her Churchill Fellowship to Europe, Canada and the United States, where she will learn from international industry leaders how best to lift Australia’s female representation in skilled trades.
Polly will focus on understanding the ways other countries have reduced stigma and encouraged students at a high school level to think about skilled trade pathways.
Polly believes that when it comes to pursuing a career path, there should be equal opportunity available to all. She is working to provide encouragement, guidance and resources so that women and minority groups who want to go into a skilled trade can have that choice.
Adam Davey, CEO of the Winston Churchill Trust said “There is currently a very low number of women in skilled trades in Australia. With the numbers trending downwards, the Churchill Trust is very pleased to see one of our Fellows working for better representation,”
“Seeing diversity in our skilled trades is so important. Everyone should be encouraged to pursue a career path of their choice, no matter their background.” said Adam.
Currently only 13% of the building and construction industry workforce are women, with just 2% of those in skilled trades – the other 11% being administration or support work.
Polly has already had great success with the launch of the Women in Trade, NextGen Tradies – Try a Trade program in 2022. This program includes workshops to teach foundational skills in trades such as carpentry and painting, asking participants to build and finish a project together. In a recent workshop, a group of high school girls built a cubby house to be donated to a local primary school.
The response to this program has been immediate with 15% of participants broadening their career ambitions to think about a skilled trade.
“This really gives students an indication of where they are going or where they could go in the future, and what career pathways are out there as far as opportunities go,” said Polly when discussing the program.
With the support of the Winston Churchill Trust, Polly is hoping to expand the NextGen Tradies – Try a Trade program from local to national, embedding the opportunity into school career programs.