25 May 2023

Leonie sparks Illawarra women's interest in electrical trades

| Katrina Condie
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woman at desk

TAFE NSW Wollongong head teacher Leonie Davies is encouraging women to consider taking up a trade. Photo: TAFE NSW.

Leonie Davies is sparking the interest of women considering a career in electrotechnology.

A head teacher at TAFE NSW’s Wollongong campus, Leonie is passing on her passion for the electrical trade to students, playing a key role in training the next generation of tradies – both male and female.

Women are underrepresented in trades, making up only 2 per cent of qualified trade workers, however, she says many larger companies are diversifying their workforce.

Since taking up a teaching role with TAFE NSW in 2019, Leonie says she has seen more young women entering the electrical trades, particularly in the employment of larger companies.

“The major companies are increasing their number of female apprentices,” she said.

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“For example, this year we have three first-year apprentice electricians and one third-year apprentice who work for Endeavour Energy.

“My vision is to see more smaller businesses follow suit, adding more women to roles. I also think it’s important for women in trades to encourage other women to come on board.”

Working in a male-dominated industry is nothing new for Leonie who earned her stripes as an electrician in heavy industry and at mining sites.

Her career began with an electrical apprenticeship in Port Kembla and she always worked at large industrial, mining and construction sites before becoming a TAFE NSW teacher.

“I did four years as a fly-in fly-out worker on Curtis Island and in Darwin working on gas plants,” Leonie said.

“Those years provided excellent experience and my students are interested in the work I have done.

“Everything TAFE NSW electrotechnology students learn, will give them a good grounding in the industry basics and practical in-demand skills so then they can go into so many different fields.”

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Endeavour Energy Apprentice Support Manager Darryl Leslie said that a few years ago the company made a decision to increase the number of female apprentices.

“We have very capable women in our apprenticeships covering a range of skills,” he explained.

“Some have graduated as substation technicians while others move into the poles and wires part of the business.

“The women in our organisation work shoulder to shoulder with their male colleagues across our network in the Illawarra, South Coast, Southern Highlands, Sydney and Blue Mountains often in storm and emergency conditions.”

Darryl said safety was at the forefront at Endeavour.

“I think that attracts women, they know they will be safe and respected. That’s our culture,” he said.

“The women who work with us are helping get the message out there that trades aren’t only for men.

“We have a number of successful and qualified tradeswomen who are supporting the next generation of apprentices as mentors.”

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