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Event promotes Hi-Vis to girls

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Hundreds of female secondary school students from throughout the country have just had a taste of a career in infrastructure – and they’ve loved it.

The month-long series of Girls with Hi-Vis (GWHV) events is held annually and Connexus – Te Pūkenga executive director Kaarin Gaukrodger says the infrastructure industry keeps New Zealand moving – roads need replacing, water pipes and systems upgrading, power lines maintained and faster broadband technology needs installing – and the skills required to deliver the future face of infrastructure continues to grow.

“These skillsets are in high demand, particularly with the current challenges to help get the country back on track after the recent storms and flooding that has hit nationwide.”

GWHV showcased the day-to-day roles of those tradespeople keeping our communities connected and provides an understanding of the career opportunities within their local community within infrastructure’s civil, energy, telecommunications and water industries.

Kaarin says GWHV is a key driver to attracting more young women to what is a male-dominated industry.

“If we are to effectively address critical skills shortages within infrastructure industries, and meet the future needs of our communities, it is clear we must be more visible precisely where and when young people are making crucial career decisions. And that’s where Girls with Hi-Vis comes in.”

Throughout the month of June worksites around the country become a learning ground to encourage more young women to begin a career in infrastructure.

The students have donned hi-vis vests and done it all from driving diggers and trucks, to climbing power poles and checking out some of New Zealand’s largest energy-generating assets.

A group of Hamilton Girls’ High School students had a taste of what a day on the job is all about at WEL Networks.

Jaide Snapes and Sophie Hulme, Hamilton Girls High being shown how to work together to connect electrical wire at the top of a pole.

Hamilton Girls’ students Jaide Snapes, Keilani Hadfield and Sophie Hulme all took part in the experience and loved the idea of a career that takes them out of the office.

“It (a career in infrastructure) didn’t interest me before but coming here has given me more of a visual idea of what it’s about. It was really practical and hands on,” Jaide says.

“I really like seeing all the different things you can do and the things you learn from the job – and that you can earn while you learn. Today has been very eventful and really interesting to see all the activities that make up the trade,” Keilani says.

“I don’t want to sit behind a desk all day. I’d get really bored. I have family members who work in this industry so it seems like a really good idea to me.

“I think GWHV helped me realise this is something I really want to do. It does really interest me,” Sophie says.

WEL Networks organisational development/HR advisor Kayleen von Keisenberg says supporting initiatives like GWHV is a great way of encouraging females into the industry.

“We’ve had some great wins and we are taking big steps, working towards achieving our Gender Tick.”

The Hamilton event was attended by the Hon Nanaia Mahuta who says the chance to learn about career opportunities in traditionally male dominated industries is a chance to break down barriers and show other young women who are successful in the energy sector.

“I’m delighted that more effort is going into promote trades training it’s certainly a valid pathway supported by the government.”

For the first time this year some of the GWHV events incorporated the construction industry with BCITO – Te Pūkenga, the construction training provider and EarnLearn – Te Pūkenga who cover specialist trades such as scaffolding, plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying, and electrical. The employers within these industries are also looking to attract more trainees and see the GWHV events as a great opportunity to do this.

The infrastructure industry is leading the way when it comes to employing women in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, last year proudly reaching a target figure of 10% of women trainees in the industry. This has been a steady build on 11 years ago when 3% of trainees were women.

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