Careers: Women Achieve Success in Trades Training

Invercargill Apprentice Mechanic, Brooke Harris, has set her sights on a career in motorsport after gaining a New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering (Level 3) (Light) at SIT.
Photo supplied by SIT

At Southern Institute of Technology – Business Division of Te Pūkenga, women are achieving notable results in trades training across a diverse range of subjects, in the construction and engineering fields. A consistent trend in recent years has been the prevalence of women on stage at the end-of-year awards ceremonies receiving awards for excellence; the trend looks set to continue, as more women pursue desirable trades careers after graduating.

At the 2022 Invercargill Awards Ceremony, 25 women scooped 29 Trades and Technology awards across nine different subjects, including Architectural Technology, Beauty Therapy, Carpentry Pre-trade, Hairdressing, Joinery, Mechanical Engineering, Diploma and Bachelor-level Engineering, Veterinary Nursing and Animal Care.

Luke Mason, Head of School – Engineering, says much of the breaking down of barriers for women entering into a trades career has already happened.

“We’ve moved past that (initial) getting females into trades, the biggest issue is not whether there are females in the class, the bar is set higher now, and the focus is on getting them into the full range of trade careers.”

He used as an example, heavy automotive engineering. “ … there are no barriers in those roles which traditionally were dominated by males, (which often came from the physical or heavy nature of the work).” Developments in technology have changed work environments to such an extent that those types of issues are no longer relevant, Mr Mason explained.

He added trades careers are well remunerated, with long-term options for further career growth, making them valuable and highly desirable.

“It is fantastic to be able to re-engage with our former full-time students when they return for apprentice training and find out how their careers are evolving and the positive effects it has had on their lives.”

In 2022, more than half of the students – 10 out of 18 – in SIT’s Joinery class were females. Philip Johnstone, SIT Joinery Tutor, says there are two qualities they consistently see in female students which help them to succeed on the course: “they are good at attention to detail, they also listen to and follow instructions.” They see their students develop significantly during the course. “They are discovering what they’re really good at and they grow in confidence,” he said.

Joinery can lead to diverse job outcomes, Joinery Tutor, Lee Park adds. They’ve had graduates go onto upholstery, glazing, furniture making, and aluminium joinery. “The core of the course teaches Health and Safety in the commercial workshop environment and you learn the manufacturing process, which lends itself well to a number of career options,” he said.


Brooke Harris – Automotive (Light) Graduate

Invercargill born-and-raised Brooke Harris thought she was bound to end up in an agricultural career; but a conversation with her school careers counsellor sent her in a completely different direction.

Brooke’s family are big motorsport fans and she grew up watching V8 supercars. “Bathurst weekend in our house is like Christmas,” she says. After the school careers counsellor asked her why she hadn’t thought about becoming a mechanic, the penny dropped for Brooke and she found was looking for. “ … I love anything hands-on and practical, and really enjoy problem-solving,” she says.

Brooke enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering (Level 3) (Light) at SIT. “ … I thought this was my best way to get my foot in the door and start making progress towards a career in the motor racing industry as a mechanic.”

Studying at SIT was definitely a learning curve, Brooke says. “It was a big step outside of my comfort zone … I had to work very hard to keep up and retain all this new knowledge … “ It was no fault of the tutors or structure of the class, she explains. Looking back, she sees how it really helped her to step up to new challenges.

Now an Apprentice Mechanic at Leitch Motorsport and Restoration, Brooke started her full-time job there the day after her course finished. Completing work experience was a course requirement; Brooke’s placement with Leitch Motorsport led to the offer of an apprenticeship.

Brooke wants her qualification to take her as far as she can go (literally) with a goal to work overseas as a mechanic in a motorsport race team.

“When I started, I never imagined any of this would even be a possibility, but I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone to reach out and make connections that have now opened up so many opportunities, from supercars in Australia, to IndyCars over in America and even work in Europe.”

Enrol in trades for a mid-year start

The following programmes have a mid-year start available. And with the Zero Fees Scheme continuing for 2023, what are you waiting for – enrol today! Go to our website or click on the link below to check individual course start dates.

New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering (Level 3) (Light)

New Zealand Certificate in Beauty Therapy (Level 4)

New Zealand Certificate in Hairdressing (Salon Support) Level 3

New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Companion Animals) (Level 3)

New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Level 3) – Carpentry

Southern Institute of Technology, 133 Tay Street Invercargill Ph 0800 40 FEES