4 March 2024

Wollongong woman Aislinn Rebel dug deep to find her dream career in a trade that employs 95 per cent men

| Zoe Cartwright
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Wollongong’s Aislinn Rebel is following her passion for landscaping thanks to TAFE NSW Yallah.

Wollongong’s Aislinn Rebel is following her passion for landscaping thanks to TAFE NSW Yallah. Photo: Daniel Johns.

Wollongong’s Aislinn Rebel has three pieces of advice for women considering taking up a trade.

“Walk onto the jobsite with your back straight, stand up for yourself and work hard,” she said.

“No one expects you to be perfect when you first start, but if you’re mentally and physically strong, and stand up for yourself, people are really supportive.”

Aislinn, 25, ditched her plans for a career in social work to join the male-dominated outdoor trades sector after she fell in love with landscaping.

She has urged other young women to get “on the tools” and consider a career in the booming industry.

READ ALSO Gilly’s Kitchen Garden harvests community spirit and sustainability skills with new wellness centre plans

“I really enjoy being outside, it’s physical, and no two days are the same,” she said.

“I’ve learnt lots of different skills, from concreting to timberwork and a bit of plumbing.

“I can now do so many things in my day-to-day life that I was never taught growing up, and that really builds your confidence.”

Less than 5 per cent of landscapers are women, according to Labour Market Insights, but Aislinn says most tradies are friendlier than many of the chefs she dealt with when working in hospitality.

Now a third-year apprentice with Vista Landscapes and a Certificate III in Landscape Construction student at TAFE NSW Yallah, Aislin said she had discovered her professional passion.

“I always liked the idea of working outside in a challenging role but I thought I was destined to do social work at university,” she said.

“A friend suggested I try landscaping and I brushed it off at first but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it could be for me.”

Despite being the only female in her TAFE NSW Yallah class and a few years older than the other students, Ms Rebel said her studies had helped give her the practical skills and experience to thrive.

“The TAFE NSW teachers are so experienced and it’s great to have open discussions in class about some of the challenges we are facing on the job,” she said.

“It’s such a satisfying job: you get to see what you’ve created each day and feel yourself get fitter and stronger.

“Being a mature-aged student meant I was physically and mentally strong and had the confidence in myself to set boundaries – as a woman, you’re not just a small man.

“I would just encourage other women to consider a career in landscaping as it’s a great industry with heaps of opportunity.

“You can do trial shifts, or take on some work as a labourer if you want to see what it’s like before you commit to study.”

READ ALSO The best landscapers in Wollongong

Ms Rebel said the job was rich in variety, with her typical day involving anything from paving to grouting, building retaining walls to planting out a backyard space.

She hopes to eventually study the Diploma of Landscape Design at TAFE NSW Yallah to broaden her skill set and help her one day own her own landscaping business.

TAFE NSW Yallah landscape construction teacher Rob Wardlaw, a 30-year veteran of the industry, said landscapers were in such high demand in the Illawarra, he regularly fielded calls from employers looking for new staff.

“It’s such a broad trade that it’s really a number of trades rolled into one,” Mr Wardlaw said. “That opens up a lot of doors for you.”

He said TAFE NSW Yallah students honed their skills with a range of hands-on projects both on campus and in the community.

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