With her blonde ponytail and painted nails, Emma Gibson is not your typical heavy machinery mechanic.
However, being 'typical' does not concern the 19-year-old Hunter Valley Training Company (HVTC) apprentice fitter machinist who is committed to gaining her trade qualifications in a traditionally male-dominated field.
To support International Women's Day 2014 (8 March) and the theme Inspiring Change, Emma is encouraging more females to follow her lead and take up a non-traditional trade.
“If you want to do something, there is no reason why you can't do it. You should never be afraid to break gender stereotypes,” Emma said.
Through her host employer Select Plant Hire, Emma spends her days fixing and maintaining the large machinery that lays the rails and packs the ballast.
“It's a filthy job. Your nails and hair are a mess by the end of the day but it's good fun and the work is both challenging and rewarding,” she said.
As well as working as an apprentice fitter machinist, the Singleton resident also has a part-time job washing trucks and is preparing to go for her truck licence, a dream she has held since she was just 10 years old.
“My dad is a fitter machinist and I've always been interested in trucks and cars. I love that my job is a bit different and I couldn't imagine doing anything else,” she said.
According to the ABS Labour Force Australia data, Women currently make up only 13 per cent of trade apprentices and trainees in NSW and less than two per cent of all automotive, engineering, construction and electro-technology trade workers are female. Just over two per cent of all HVTC apprentices in traditionally male-dominated trades are female.
HVTC CEO Sharon Smith said as Australia's oldest and largest Group Training Organisation, HVTC was passionate about leading the way and increasing the number of women working in non-traditional trades.
“The greatest challenge for women chasing non-traditional occupations is defying out-dated views that gender affects a person's capacity to successfully perform and excel at certain jobs,” Sharon said.
“This International Women's Day we want to encourage more women to take up training in fields such as mechanical and electrical. Many jobs requiring these skills are in high-demand, well-paid and offer both women and men satisfying, flexible and inspiring careers.”