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Busting trade worker stereotypes needed to fix the skills shortage

Skilled trades jobs for workers using STEM skills are many and varied – we just need more people to choose them!

Shortages of skilled trade workers are acute in Australia, with more than 50% of jobs going unfilled and the situation getting worse this year.

And yet according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 Australians by US manufacturing giant 3M, half believe parents are discouraging their kids from pursuing a skilled trade, due to a belief that there is a negative stigma around being a skilled trade worker.

“With Australians recognising the need for more skilled trade workers and a broad recognition that there will be negative outcomes if we cannot find a solution to the skills shortage, it is a vital time for all of us to encourage more school leavers into a science-based career,” says Eleni Sideridis, managing director of 3M Australia and New Zealand.

Skilled trades workers don’t just include the ‘tradies’ you may immediately think of working in our booming construction industry. They include lab technicians, trades teachers, IT workers and even people in nursing.

And to get there, students need to stick with STEM subjects at school.

Government data shows shortages are particularly bad in automotive and engineering trades, along with construction.

And the 3M survey found Australians think getting more women into trades is one way to fix the problem.

On that front, there’s some good news in NSW at least, with a 20% jump in females signing up for apprenticeships and traineeships, many in traditionally male-dominated trades.

Like Melinda Jeffrey, who did mechanical engineering at TAFE and then worked as a machinist before becoming an engineering trades teacher.

Or carpenter and site manager Stef Apostolidis, aka @melbournechippychick, who loves sharing all the good things about her job with the world.

And Bonnie Anderson, who left a job in real estate to become a qualified electrician.


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