How one female tradie is changing the industry
When we last spoke to Becca Higgin in September 2021, she was juggling her Certificate III in Carpentry studies with a part time job as an apprentice. As a mature age student, she wasn’t fazed by stepping into a male dominated industry and was excited about the prospects open to her.
Fast forward a year and a half and Becca’s hopes of being a role model to other women is coming to fruition. She not only completed her Certificate III but also fast tracked her way through Certificate IV. While working during the day, Becca would attend TIV classes for 3 hours twice a week for 7 months to gain her new qualification. She also attended occasional site visits on weekends.
“TIV is a great place to learn and a safe space“
Becca loved the fast track course saying, “I know a lot of apprentices who are on site who just get given the jobs that need to be done, and they don’t get to always explore every single unit that actually gets ticked off in the course. With this you have 20 other people around you also learning at the same time with the same questions, or even other questions that you haven’t even thought of, and that for me was the ideal way of learning. The combination of being able to work part-time as well was brilliant and I was getting real on-site experience.”
Becca credits TIV with much of her success saying it was “confident building for me and such a great environment to learn in.” She goes on to explain that even though there were only four girls in the group of thirty, making them a clear minority, “the trainers and everyone we worked with were just so accepting, and treated us just like everyone else, which you sometimes worry isn’t going to be the case.” Becca affirms that “TIV is definitely a safe environment for any women coming through that want to take on a trade and are a little bit worried about it.”
Becca is well spoken and her passion for the industry is clear. She has been documenting her trade journey through Instagram where she has built up a loyal following. This led to opportunities working with brands in the industry. And it also caught the attention of TIV who recognised that not only was Becca a great student, but also a great advocate and role model for other women looking at a trade career.
It seemed a natural step to offer Becca a position as an ambassador for TIV, which she enthusiastically accepted.
Becca has already done some filming, interviewing current female students of TIV. It was a role she really enjoyed. She continues to be inspired by other women in the industry saying, “It always excites me when I see other women who are excited about starting a new career.” In particular, she was humbled to meet another mature age student who followed her on social media and already knew who she was. Becca says, “It was like that’s the full circle, that’s the great feeling.”
During filming, Becca also spoke to the men training for apprenticeships and she was buoyed “to hear their perspective on getting more women in the industry and it’s nothing but support.”
Becca is looking forward to continuing her ambassadorship role. She will be in front of the camera filming again at an upcoming unveiling of a special TIV footy field. But she’s also looking forward to the Trade Fair event at the Melbourne Convention Centre. This event will give schoolgirls an opportunity to learn about pathways in the industry and try out a few trades.
Becca recognises there are still stereotypes about women in trades and she hopes to dispel these on work sites and as a spokesperson for TIV.
She believes giving schoolgirls the option of a trade career is a first step because she says, “I always found when I was growing up that it just wasn’t put to me as an option. So I never really thought about it. The boys would get put on trade days and it was all kind of aimed at them and I didn’t realise I was missing out back then.” Becca also makes the point that many boys are pushed into trades when they want to leave school and it may not necessarily be their passion, whereas girls coming into trades today “actually set out to do it (despite the barriers) because they really, really want to do it and they’re really interested in the actual industry. You end up with a higher calibre of people doing what they want to do because they enjoy it.”
Another thing that Becca has noticed is that some girls think they need to fall into the stereotype of being a “blokey type of girl” in order to do a trade but she knows that’s not the case. Becca explains she knows a couple of women who when they first started, thought “they had to fit a certain mould and they had to be a bit of a boy’s girl. And they couldn’t necessarily be themselves at the beginning, but then with maturity and time and confidence, they have been able to show you can be a tradie but if you’re still into stereotypical feminine things, that’s okay too. We need to be ourselves and show up as ourselves.” Becca knows this will in turn allow other women to come into the industry and be themselves too.
Changing industry culture
Becca believes one of the greatest things about working in a male dominated industry is seeing a “healthier culture develop between the genders” with interactions on site. She says, “I think the really nice thing is the boys talk about the things they’re into – motorbikes and cars – that’s not necessarily something I’m interested in but I know a lot more about them these days because they still talk to me about it. And they also talk to me about more personal things that they want to get advice on, which is really nice as somebody who is a bit older than them. I’ve had a bit more life experience.” The stereotype of men not talking about their feelings is being broken down as a mutual respect grows between them. Becca says, “So just by turning up every day, I seem to be changing the culture and their perspective.” That can only be a good thing for the industry and society.
While Becca hasn’t personally experienced any negativity as a tradeswoman, she’s still amused when people are shocked at seeing her on site doing all the things the boys are doing. She thrives off that unconscious bias and loves shocking people in this way, but also says, “The only thing I really look forward to is it becoming a little bit less of a thing. When they’re not as shocked when they see a woman doing these things.”
If you’re inspired by Becca and want to follow in her footsteps, please get in touch so TIV can help you achieve success.