In 2012 the SALT committee created a unique vision of teaching as many women and girls as possible how to use tools. This was based on research by Fi Shewring; which had identified that a majority of women who were succeeding in apprenticeships had been taught to use tools at an early age. Many employers say to us that women do not apply for the jobs that they offer and they struggled to get women to apply. SALT decided to take on generating social change. We felt that women did not normally have basic knowledge of generic tool use, which are used in almost all trades, but they also didn’t know that they could easily do this type of work either. It was a classic case of not knowing what you don’t know.
All programs Fi had researched had been static. They serviced women in their local vicinity and did a very good job but this requires a lot of organisations, running a lot of programs, over a large area to generate social change. When SALT started it was the only support organization for women in the trades in Australia and we wanted to reach as many women as possible. The idea for a mobile workshop was born. Funding was sort and gained, sponsorship was sort and gained and the total cost of the workshop, including a custom-built trailer, was $25,000.
In the beginning SALT had no on-going funding and the basis of our organization was run by volunteer tradeswomen who are very passionate about generating change. Today we are funded by different organisations but we have retained an incredible ethic of generosity and support which now includes men as well as women who donate a great deal of time and effort to SALT. Whist we have a group of regular tradeswomen who run the workshops we have established a large pool of tradespeople across Australia who have worked on the workshop. This is no mean feat when you realize that all the tradespeople take time off from their families and working lives to do this. We believe that the way forward is women and men working together and we hope to remove gender from the equation but we need to level the playing field first.
The very least our workshop does is give participants basic life skills with tools which are useful to all women in their everyday lives. Our aim is to teach as many women and girls as possible and we travel around Australia with our unique mobile workshop- the only one of its kind in the world.
We run two types of workshop:
Workshop One is a four and a half hour workshop with up to 25 participants. We use five tradespeople and each tradesperson is responsible for their group. We commence with a safety induction and all participants wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and must follow all instruction from their tradie. They create a timber project from measuring up, cutting and assembling. The tools and skills involved include, measuring with tapes and set squares; cutting with a variety of saws such as hand saw, drop saw and jigsaw to assembling with drills, impact drivers, nails, screws, hammers, nail punches and different drill bits. Each tool is explained and correct use shown and overseen. This workshop achieves the most in terms of gaining tool skills and engaging people.
Workshop Two is designed to run large quantities of people through a quick tool exposure. Again, people are inducted and put on PPE but the project is much simpler. Tradespeople are stationed on each tool or table and participants rotate through measuring up cutting and assembling in 20 minutes. A tradesperson oversees each participant use the tool correctly but this workshop is much less hands on.
To date we are close to having run 300 Workshops across New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, most of these workshops have been Workshop One. We have covered more than 150,000 kilometers with our mobile workshop. Three of these states are the most heavily populated states of Australia with close to 13,000,000 of Australia’s estimated 24,000,000 population.
The only things we ask for to run a workshop is an undercover area (internal or external) of roughly 15m x 15m, access to one power point and a toilet. We have used awnings, sheds, classrooms, community halls and town halls to run workshops plus every variance in between.
We have given talks and workshops in over 200 schools regarding making positive career choices which will enable women to earn reasonable wages to support themselves and their families. We don’t expect all the women who do our workshops to enter the trades but we really encourage young women to be very active in their career choices and think beyond the six employment fields women usually choose. At the very least women take home the knowledge and self esteem to use a range of basic tools which enables them to be more independent and gives them confidence to help themselves at home.
We know that the program is working because we are now hearing about young women who are changing their pathways and/or gaining confidence to pursue a career in the trades. It is not common for us to return to a community to run a workshop but recently we returned to the mining community of Cobar in North Western NSW. Our first workshop had involved 15 young women and two years later we had to turn young women away, as 27 were working in the workshop and we could not take on more safely.
This letter from one young woman in Junee, NSW called Hayley:
To The Amazing Women who run The Women in Trade Day
First off, I would like to thank you for taking the time to visit my school. Today was the second time I have participated in the Women in Trade Day and you have definitely set a standard.
The first time I participated in the day you were in Cootamundra and I was the only student from my school to attend. Although I remember that I arrived late and had to leave early, you still helped me and gave me a fantastic introduction into trade. At the end of the day I left Cootamundra with my beautifully crafted carry tray and I was so proud! I absolutely love my tray and use it to store my painting equipment (one day I actually plan to paint it).
I loved the day so much that I took it into consideration when planning my year 11 subjects and decided to do Design and Technology.
Today I attended that Women in Trade Day again, where you had my school craft the same tray I made two years ago! Thankfully you allowed me to start my DNT (Design and Technology) project and even assisted me with it. Today you made me feel welcome and as if I truly could make it in a non-traditional female trade”. This has enlightened me to properly consider it as a career path that I will enjoy.
For all of your assistance, I would like to thank you and I hope you continue visiting female students like myself so that they too can be part of this experience.
We collect feedback from all of our workshops and analysis of feedback from just one of our workshop tours is as follows:
The results we got were staggering with 139 women out of 161 changing their minds about what women can do because of the workshop – that is 86.35%. Other results are equally fantastic:
- 91.1% gave a score of 10 or 9 out of ten
- no one gave a mark lower than 7/10
- 91.83% were inspired by the workshop to train as tradespeople
During May 2016 three workshops will be held in Northern NSW working with Coffs Harbour Schools, Career advisors and Career organisations will involve two workshops in High Schools plus a careers event were we will run a Try-a-trade workshop with a much smaller project but which will allow about 400 students to use tools.
You can see a wonderful mini documentary about the workshops and their impact which was made for us by Bruce Cumming who makes extraordinary documentaries about people, communities and society.