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Women in the Automotive Industry – Can fantasy overrule reality?

A few months ago, I came across a woman who has recently moved from New Zealand to Melbourne, enquiring about an automotive qualification in our college. I was thrilled with the fact that finally a lady turned up and my vision to see a woman getting under the bonnet and working along with the men in a very male dominated industry, through our college, would become true. Her excitement and passion overwhelmed me, while she was expressing how from living on a farm her fantasy to fuel her future journey with an exciting new career in the automotive industry in a new city was triggered. I have interviewed and counselled many young and older men who wanted to pursue an automotive career, but the passion this lady exhibited, was just not limited to getting a job.

After a long session counselling her on the various possibilities she could achieve with an automotive certificate, I felt she would definitely enroll in the foundation skills automotive course. I was not hoping that she would be one of my potential sales, but hoping that either with us or with some other college she would definitely start studying.

Months passed and we never heard from her again. Out of curiosity I happened to ring her one fine day, and surprisingly she never signed up to any of the automotive courses and instead enrolled herself in a nursing course. When I enquired about her change in interest, she mentioned that after giving it considerable thought and talking to her friends and relatives, all encouraged her to get into an industry which would be more lucrative in getting job, and most importantly, would consider a woman undertaking the profession.

The surprising factor was not that she chose nursing, which is also a perfect course for pursuing a bright career, but the fact that a woman needed to compromise her dreams with something that suited community acceptance and industry preferences.

On another side of the coin, yes, she is right, even though I convinced her to undertake the automotive course, I am unable to ensure that she is accepted as an apprentice or an employee in the automotive industry and what the industry may not have any room for her. Though my feminism encouraged me to motivate her, considering the practical aspects of ‘survival journey’, the realistic image overruled the fantasy. These unanswered questions energized me to step out my box, to conduct a few studies on women in automotive industry and then I was offered this opportunity by Reinvent Your Career to write something about it.

The first thing that interested me whilst undertaking the research was the fact that Australia is awake in encouraging woman to get into the automotive industry, as the demand arises from ongoing skills shortages. Auto Skills Australia’s National Project Manager, Peter Gostelow, said that the number of females who were enrolling in training had grown by 35 per cent since 2009, but more were needed to address the skills and gender gap. The number of women in the industry, however, could be counted less compared to the 129,500 people employed in automotive repair and maintenance, with only 14,000 being female, but the triggering factor was that women have started showing interest in pursuing an automotive career. Mr Gostelow also mentioned, in the same article, that the root of women being encouraged into the automotive industry was fuelled from the TV show ‘Neighbours’, which gave an insight into how more women could be recruited into the automotive trade. From this article, I could sense that there are women who have interest in pursuing an automotive career.

With the growing promotion and encouragement of women to join the automotive trade, the question remains ‘are there enough employers willing to accept women as potential foreman?’ Australian Government-listed automotive electrician, motor mechanic, panel beater and vehicle painters are all trades facing skills shortages, however there is a strong belief that woman could fill the gap with the appropriate training and guidance.

Ford Australia has been shortlisted in the top five ‘Leading Organisations for the Advancement of Women’ by the EOWA, and was the only automotive manufacturer to have been recognised as an ‘Employer of Choice’ by women. Ford has an active program to increase the employment of females in the workforce and in 10 years the recruitment of female graduates has increased from 16 per cent in 1994 to 44 per cent in 2004. Similarly, Holden has followed the trend, with statistics revealing that of Holden’s 9200-strong workforce; nine per cent are female, with 18 per cent of that portion holding senior management positions. The Corporate Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) also mentioned that “Australian businesses seem to be more conservative when it comes to females in the workplace – particularly to women in leadership or management roles.” As recently seen on seek.com, leaders in the automotive industry and many employers in SME automotive workshops are seeking female employees.

A recent initiative launched by the Women of Australian Motor Sport Committee (WAMS) in alliance with the automotive industry, is a campaign aimed at increasing the uptake and retention of automotive apprenticeships to help address the skills shortage. This campaign is an initiative by ASA’s MAAP My Future – Careers in Automotive initiative, funded by the Federal Government.

With these growing promotions, campaigns and the open minds of automotive industries to recruit woman in their trade, there is hope that fantasy can overrule reality. So ladies, this is the right time to get hands on in the automotive trade by enrolling in any automotive qualifications, as who knows, you could be in the spotlight by becoming a leading example to join the Automotive Woman League and I am sure your next generation is waiting to follow in your footsteps.

Finally, you may ask yourself ‘where do I start?’ The foundation skills courses in automotive are the starting point for you to enter the trade, where you can learn the basics of the trade and get familiar with different components of the automotive industry. From there, you would learn which sector in automotive you want to specialize in, ranging from different vehicle types such as light vehicles, motor bikes, heavy vehicles and many others; with technical expertise specializing in inspections, repairing, technician, diagnosis, sales and many more. There are also trainer and assessor shortages in automotive industry, with practical expertise and good language, literacy and numeracy skills required to train the future generation. So, if you already have been in the automotive industry and you have experience, it’s time for you to inspire and share your knowledge and experience by becoming an efficient trainer. You can always get enrolled in the Certificate IV Training and Assessment, where they would train you with the skills to conduct training and assessment. So, with this cocktail of automotive trade experience, knowledge and teaching certification, you can have a bright career, inspiring thousands of dreamers who wish to follow your path. The Central Australian College could be the bridge to turn your dreams into reality!

 

Lupa Borah | Business Development Manager

Central Australian Institute of Technology

T +61 3 96874275 | F +61 3 96874712

Web: www.cac.vic.edu.au

 

 Sources: http://www.wams.org.au/new-partnership-presents-opportunities-for-women-in-motor-sport/

http://www.motoring.com.au/features/2005/women-welcome-in-the-auto-industry-981

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/employers-desperately-seeking-women-to-join-automotive-industry-to-overcome-skills-shortage/story-e6frfm9r-1226695883483

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