Why a job in construction could be the perfect career path for women
The mobile crane industry has traditionally been viewed as a ‘men’s industry’, lacking in female representation. Thankfully, times are changing, and leading the way is one of our employees, Rachel McCann. Her example is helping to unlock career pathways for women and the next generation of girls emerging.
More women are active in the Victorian labour market now than in the past, yet Construction has the lowest percentage of female employment of any industry within Australia at 13% (source - Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Rachel McCann has successfully made the leap into the construction industry. She first began working at Associated Rigging after joining the Mobile Crane Industry Traineeship Pilot Program.
Her Dad, a rigger, inspired her to follow in his footsteps. “I was hoping I could get into this field but knew it would be hard with no experience. When I heard about the traineeship, I was really hoping to be part of it”.
Developed as an initiative between the CFMEU, mobile crane companies, the Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA), and Incolink, the traineeship hopes to encourage more women to seek careers in construction, including male-dominated roles such as a rigger or crane operator.
There is a lack of gender diversity in construction, with the percentage of women in the workforce declining from 17% in 2006 to 11.6% in 2018 (source - Australian Bureau of Statistics).
If you look at any construction site, women are usually outnumbered by men but construction companies are starting to recognise the positive impact that female workers make. This is a great start but there’s no escaping the fact that outdated attitudes to women in the building sector have been heavily ingrained in our culture.
Damian Simpson, a colleague of Rachel’s agrees “Construction is a legitimate career path for women but the male-dominated sector can be hard to break, especially with some of the older men who can be set in their ways”.
Adding to the challenge, some schools fail to promote construction and trades as a viable career option to girls and traditional views of what constitutes “men’s work” and “women’s work” means few girls in secondary school can imagine working in the building sector. Furthermore, women in the industry rarely occupy onsite or senior management positions. Instead, you are most likely to find them in administrative and other support roles.
Rachel believes the Mobile Crane Industry Traineeship would be a great stepping-stone for women interested in the industry. “In the past, it’s been very male-dominated but now there are more women out there who are doing it and doing it well. If it’s something women want to pursue, they should go for it”.
Rachel is continuing to develop real-world skills during her training. “The program is set up to simulate a realistic worksite. Among other skills, we’re trained to operate an assortment of cranes and machinery. I’ve been using the same equipment out on worksites, so the training element has been really helpful”.
Damian has been impressed with Rachel’s work ethic. “She’s willing and wanting to learn. She jumps in and gets to work quicker than most and is very enthusiastic with broadening her skill set. She doesn’t just want to blend into the shadows, she wants to be at the forefront”.
Contrary to the perception women aren’t welcome in the construction industry, Rachel says she has felt accepted and valued as another member of the team. “Associated Rigging has been great to me. The work is very versatile and there is something different to do every day. I’ve met a lot of great people who are very experienced and happy to teach me”.
Damian agrees “Rachel has been accepted just like anyone else. She has a great sense of humour, great work ethic and talks the bloke’s lingo. She also has the effect of making those around her more productive”.
Over the next decade, total employment in the construction industry is expected to increase by 1.2% per annum or 33,700 over that period (source - Master Builders Association of Victoria).
Currently, around 50% of qualified crane operators are over the age of 50 and it’s expected a great deal of experience will be lost when those operators start to move into retirement. Women will provide a potential source of untapped labour supply to help fill that gap.
As a role model and participant in this year’s International Women’s Day, Rachel encourages other women to consider a career in construction. “I would highly recommend women go for it. My experience has been amazing and I feel really lucky to have a career in construction. There are many opportunities for secure, well-paid work and greater diversity can only benefit the industry”.
Incolink - International Women's Day (featuring Rachel McCann)
Victorian Mobile Crane Industry Traineeship
Women in Construction - https://womeninconstruction.com.au
Incolink Careers in Construction - https://www.incolink.org.au/media/1366/incolink-careers-in-construction.pdf
The National Association of Women in Construction https://www.nawic.com.au/
International Women’s Development Agency https://iwda.org.au/
Awesome Women in Construction https://awic.org.au/
The Crane Industry Council of Australia https://www.cica.com.au