More women in the frame: joinery course sees diversity boost

by | Jan 6, 2024

In an industry often characterised by its male-dominated workforce, one Level 3 Timber Joinery off-job training course has marked a significant milestone.

The course offered by the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) was supported by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO), Te Pūkenga, and provided the usual combination of theory, practical demonstrations, and project work in timber joinery. However, what set it apart was the fact that female apprentices outnumbered their male counterparts by a ratio of five to one. A reflection of BCITO’s commitment to fostering diversity in the trades, significantly more women have taken on building and construction apprenticeships in recent years.

Nicholas Corry from JMAC Joinery, the sole male apprentice of the group, provided an interesting insight into the course’s dynamics. His experience highlights the positive impacts of diversity in learning environments.

“Of course, there was an initial surprise, because the industry is typically male-dominated, but I had worked with two of the girls in previous courses. I noticed a positive shift in the classroom dynamic, having more female representation. It felt like more of a group environment, rather than individuals focused on their own work. Everyone was more willing to help each other and ask questions. We had a lot of great discussions,” Nicholas said.

BCITO, Te Pūkenga has seen a rise in women joining the trades, in 2023 the organisation saw almost 400 new female apprentices. Amanda Williams, Principal Advisor Women, at BCITO, Te Pūkenga echoed this sentiment, highlighting the positive trajectory of the sector.

“The significant presence of women in the Level 3 Timber Joinery course reflects BCITO’s commitment to diversity. Our Women in Trades campaign focuses on challenging stereotypes and promoting inclusive workplaces. It is great to see this cultural shift play out in real-time,” she said.

A tutor at SIT, Philip Johnstone noted that this was not an isolated case. In another full-time Introduction to Joinery course in 2022 there were 10 women out of 18 attendees.

“I noticed that they asked more questions, worked steadily, and were particularly conscious to produce work to a high standard. These young women were exceptional, capable, diligent, and hard-working. Some of the best and highest-achieving graduates of our full-time programme have been women.”

The high participation of women in timber joinery courses reflects a cultural shift towards more inclusive workplaces, thanks to initiatives like BCITO’s Women in Trades campaign that challenge stereotypes.

While discussing the motivations driving more women into joinery, Philip highlighted the importance of creating a culture that was accepting of diversity.

“All workplaces benefit from diversity; we all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. From my experience, the desire and motivation to pursue joinery is already present among women. The key is to ensure that opportunities and pathways are openly available to them, especially beyond an apprenticeship, such as kitchen design, management opportunities, and small business start-ups,” he said.