Infrastructure career top of the list for female students

Francesca Emms News

Media release: Wellington 1 July 2023

Hundreds of female secondary school students from throughout the country have just had a taste of a career in infrastructure – and they’ve loved it.

Throughout the month of June worksites around the country – from Auckland in the north to Manapouri in the south – have become a learning ground to encourage more young women to begin a career in infrastructure. The students have donned hi-vis vests and done it all from driving diggers and trucks, to climbing power poles and checking out some of New Zealand’s largest energy generating assets.

The month long series of Girls with Hi-Vis® (GWHV) events is held annually by Connexis | Te Pūkenga and Executive Director Kaarin Gaukrodger says, “The infrastructure industry keeps New Zealand moving – roads need replacing, water pipes and systems upgrading, power lines maintained and faster broadband technology needs installing – and the skills required to deliver the future face of infrastructure continues to grow.

“These skillsets are in high demand, particularly with the current challenges to help get the country back on track after the recent storms and flooding that has hit nationwide.”

Kaarin says the industry gets right behind GWHV and adds that even torrential rain and a local state of emergency didn’t stop, only delayed, two GWHV events in Gisborne and Auckland, with the Downer and Ventia events now taking place in mid-July.

Ahena Patelesio from St Catherine’s College in Wellington went to the GWHV event at Meridian Energy, West Wind Farm, Makara. “This really opened my mind more to think about trades as an option for me. It was a really good experience,” she says.

Hamilton Girls High School student Cadence Kepa adds, “The GWHV event has changed my thoughts about a career in infrastructure because it’s all hands-on instead of just sitting in an office doing work like you would at school. It’s been interesting. We learnt about a lot of new skills.”

GWHV showcased the day to day roles of those tradespeople keeping our communities connected and provides an understanding of the career opportunities within their local community within infrastructure’s Civil, Energy, Telecommunications and Water industries.

Close to 620 students from 69 schools – including a large number of schools involved for the first time in the annual event – experienced what the infrastructure industry has to offer as a career.

Emily Grenside attended a GWHV event a couple of years ago and is now an apprentice with Unison. “Attending a Girls with Hi-Vis® event gave me the insight into what it was like working for Unison as a female and to see the opportunities they had. I hadn’t really thought about joining the industry before that.

“What I would say to other young women is to just do it. Get involved and put yourself out there. It’s not as scary as you think it is.

“It’s not about gender. I’m an apprentice. I’m there to work and I get treated like everybody else.”

Kaarin says that at the GWHV event at Clyde Dam it was really encouraging to see the enthusiasm from school students in terms of learning about opportunities within their local communities, as well as employers who are super keen to attract more females into the industry.

“There is already significant effort being put in by infrastructure employers to have greater female representation in their workforce and this is evident in the number of female employees that are now available to speak at these GWHV events and increase the visibility of women in infrastructure.”

Kaarin adds that GWHV is a key driver to attracting more young women to what is a traditionally male dominated industry. “If we are to effectively address critical skills shortages within infrastructure industries, and meet the future needs of our communities through innovation, it is clear we must be more visible precisely where and when young people are making crucial career decisions. And that’s where Girls with Hi-Vis® comes in.”

For the first time this year some of the GWHV events incorporated the construction industry with BCITO ❙ Te Pūkenga, the construction training provider and EarnLearn | Te Pūkenga who cover specialist trades such as scaffolding, plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying, and electrical. The employers within these industries are also looking to attract more trainees and see the GWHV events as a great opportunity to do this.

The infrastructure industry is leading the way when it comes to employing women in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, last year proudly reaching a target figure of 10% of women trainees in the industry. This has been a steady build on 11 years ago when 3% of trainees were women.

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