Skills shortage calls for hiring outside the box

With the New Zealand building industry currently experiencing a severe shortage of workers, it hardly pays to dismiss half the population as potential recruits.

Which is why when Jacob Lashman needed a new apprentice for his Wellington business Legacy Custom Construction, he hired the best person for the job, who just happened to be a woman.

Lashman says the skills shortage isn't just about finding people who are willing to put their hand up for a job, but finding people who have the commitment to follow it through.

So after a lengthy recruitment process that included interviewing six applicants, the sole female Victoria Mitchell stood out because of her impressive attitude and willingness to give it a go. While she didn't have previous experience in the trades, she brought a variety of skills from other jobs and her life experience promised a new perspective.

"Everyone has different priorities when it comes to deciding which attributes matter most to them," says Lashman. "For me, honesty, accountability and reliability are top of the list. Those kinds of attributes are not gender-specific."

Mitchell is now in the second year of her apprenticeship and loves every bit of it. Lashman says she is part of the team, gets stuck in and is keen to learn.

"She's down to earth and fun, and it's just as comfortable to have a joke with her as with anyone else," he says.

"Victoria is very particular, she thinks differently and comes up with great ideas. The difference in her point of view is great. I guess that saying that females mature earlier is possibly true. Victoria seems to have a lot more responsibility and accountability possibly due to being a mum. She's reliable and helps all round."

Lashman says while hiring a woman was in line with his overall desire to build a company that's inclusive and fair, he did question what the plumbers and sparkies on his building sites might think.

"I wondered if I would have to defend my decision, and I was ready to do that. But it turned out to be fine. They did mention it, but their reaction was positive, not negative."

So his advice to other builders considering hiring women is simple – don't overthink it.

"Any problems you foresee are probably in your head. People are people and everyone needs to work.  Who are we to tell them they can't or shouldn't do the career they have chosen?"

Mitchell is Lashman's first female apprentice and she's unlikely to be his last. He's looking forward to attending a local event where women interested in a career in the building and construction trades can meet BCITO registered employers.

Visit buildingwomen.nz to find out more about a career in the trades.

Source: Hutt News

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