Women overhaul chippie stereotype

A Victoria University carpentry course with four female students is challenging the stereotype that the only nails women are interested in are on their fingers.

The four trainee chippies make up one-quarter of a Newport Campus pre-apprenticeship class – the highest proportion of women the University has ever had in a single carpentry program.

Teacher Anthony Sims says the young women are proving they can design, saw, build, and hammer as well as their male classmates – and give back as much as they get to anyone who jokes about their ability.

The four students – Charlie Agius, 21 of St Albans; Daniela Lopez, 19 of Seddon; Sophie Tamarangi, 17 of Werribee; and Billi Johnstone, 17 of Kealba – said they have each harboured a long-held desire to become a builder.

Charlie said that after a few years of retail work following secondary school, she decided this year to follow many of her relatives into a trade.

"I'm not a traditional type of person, so becoming a carpenter makes sense since I've always been better working with my hands," she said.

Daniela, who migrated to Australia from Columbia about three years ago, said her family are still a little surprised at her career choice, given it carries the stigma of being an unappealing job done by unskilled labour in her homeland.

"They discouraged me, but I have convinced them that this is what I love to do and I can do very well with it in Australia," she said. "I've never visualised myself going to university and I'm now looking for an apprenticeship."  

Sophie said she has always gotten along well with her male mates, and will have no trouble fitting into a traditionally male workplace.    

 "I was surprised to find other girls in the class, but it wouldn't have bothered me if they weren't there."

Billi said she is happier now that she is following her grandfather's trade rather than completing the hospitality training she was steered into after leaving school at Year 10.

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