More women in the frame: Joinery course sees big diversity boost

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

While it offered the typical blend of theory, practical demonstrations, and project work in timber joinery you’d expect from a course supported by BCITO, Te Pūkenga, this course, delivered by Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), saw female apprentices outnumber their male counterparts five to one. It’s a reflection of BCITO's commitment to fostering diversity in the trades, which has led to significantly more women taking 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’d 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,” says Nicholas.

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.

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"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’s great to see this cultural shift play out in real time,” says Amanda.

Philip Johnstone, a tutor at SIT, noted that this wasn’t an isolated case. In another full-time Introduction to Joinery course in 2022, there were 10 females 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," says Philip.

The high level of female participation in timber joinery courses signals a broader cultural shift towards more inclusive and diverse workplaces, a testament to initiatives such as BCITO’s Women in Trades campaign that challenges traditional narratives and dismantles 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 explains.

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