Welding a future
Lithgow High School is making sure industry gets the best workforce possible.
According to Lithgow High VET head teacher, Peter Brownlow, it made no sense that women were hugely underrepresented in the metals trade.
"Too many women are missing out on entering what is a very rewarding career," Mr Brownlow said.
Due to excellent working relations with Lithgow TAFE, and strong VET and TVET programs, Lithgow High had developed and extended its vocational offerings, in particular in metals and engineering and workplace communications.
After Mr Brownlow attended a manufacturing expo with a local business owner, the idea of a Women Welders course was born.
"The Women Welders is an initiative to target and address the under-representation of women in the trades, especially the engineering and metal fabrication field," he said.
"The course involved having fun making stuff out of metal, and provided a safe and supportive non-threatening environment to experience metal fabrication skills.
"The idea was to give participants the confidence to continue in more formal training opportunities."
About 30 women expressed interest in the course, so a series of days was organised.
"Our priority targets for the days are students, mothers of students and any women interested – in that order," Mr Brownlow said.
"By letting mothers experience what welding is all about, is to allow them to be advocates of the profession to their daughters."
Helping to coordinate the days was Year 10 student, Alysha Anderson.
Alysha, who's been studying metals and engineering for a number of years, was involved to help develop her management and training skills.
"My role is to organise and set up the welders and the materials," Alysha said.
"I help if anyone has any troubles, they can come and ask me to help them out."
Hoping to get an apprenticeship in the engineering field, Alysha enjoyed her Thursdays at TAFE studying metals fabrication, even though she was the only female.
"Metals and engineering is a very hands-on course, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much," Alysha said.
When asked what she would say to other students, especially girls, who were thinking of studying metals and engineering Alysha said, "don't think about what your friends might think or say".
"If that's what you would like to do when you finish school, then go for it," she added.
"It's a great experience and the teachers at TAFE are great and always willing to help."
Her experience in coordinating the Women Welders courses would give her an edge when applying for jobs, Mr Brownlow said.
"She is a great example of what young women can achieve," he said.
"Although it's early days for the Women Welders courses, we're interested to see what this will turn into.
"Industry can't ignore half of its potential workforce, and we're in a position to encourage young women to explore all their career options."