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Educator recognised amongst Australia's most exceptional women in trades

From constructing decks and verandahs to renovations and home builds, carpenter Su Hauck is a pro at what she does.

But there’s another thing she’s really good at – building a foundation for women to thrive in trades.

Currently a carpentry educator at Bendigo TAFE, Su was celebrated amongst Australia’s most outstanding women in trades this month, clinching a spot as finalist for the Empowered Women in Trades Exceptional Educator Award.

“It’s pretty exciting... it's made me think a lot on some important issues around females working in the industry today,” Su said.

“I especially love seeing the students succeed at things they initially found difficult and having pride in their work and feeling like they've accomplished something.”

Playing a lead role in advocating and supporting women in trades across western Victoria, Su delivers building and construction training to diverse students – both female and male – at Bendigo TAFE. This includes mature-age pre-apprentices hoping to develop skills for a career or a personal project, and secondary school students who are working towards a school-based apprenticeship.

Su’s impact extends beyond TAFE. Collaborating with Castlemaine Women’s Shed and Women’s Health Grampians, Su has played an active role in delivering workshops, public speaking and presentations to promote women in trades.

She has also initiated a learn-as-you-build deck building course for women who had little or no experience with tools or construction, delivered informally so that learners would feel comfortable and learn at their own pace.

For Su, it was her own journey as an apprentice relying on the support of mentors that inspired her to be that person for the next generation of tradespeople.

 

“I came to carpentry as a mature age person. Thinking back about 17 years ago, the acceptance of females in the construction industry was kind of not really there,” Su said.

“The first person that I worked for was a female carpenter and that was a short-lived arrangement. I tried to continue with my education on my own and tried to find work with someone else. I couldn’t get it.

“I decided at some point that I’m just going to go out on my own, and that’s what I did. I took jobs that I knew I could do and also took some challenges that forced me to learn more.

“I called on mentors and people that I’ve created a relationship with to help me through those times.”

Completing her Certificate III in Carpentry (CPC30220) through recognition of prior learning at Bendigo TAFE, Su spent the next 13 years enjoying work as a self-employed carpenter, before finding her calling in teaching others who were new to the tools.

“I love the construction of it. I love the practicality of it. Quite strangely enough, I find framing beautiful and get excited by being able to create something with my own two hands,” Su shared.

“I realised that I had quite an interest in passing on my knowledge to other people. Specifically, I was most interested in teaching women how to use tools, whether it was a formal education or informally, so it seemed like a natural progression to come into teaching,” Su said.

As a female trades educator, Su also plays an important role in inspiring change in the industry.

“It's a focus of mine to help change the culture of the construction industry in whatever way I can,” Su said.

“Students, of any gender, need to see females in all roles within the construction industry, including teaching roles. This is how we change the belief that once was strongly held, of women being incapable of holding a trade.

“Showing students my skills and knowledge will help them accept that women they meet during their working career, are equal to the task.”

Su is already witnessing some change take place, with recent years seeing a gradual increase of female students within building, carpentry, painting and decorating courses and several female trades trainers joining Bendigo TAFE to teach the next generation of tradespeople.

“From my experiences, I felt quite excluded and the pathway for me was to create my own pathway,” Su said.

“I think that’s changed. Now there’s a lot of support. There are many opportunities for women to create a career out of this trade.

“Women are being recognised as quite capable and it’s being proven. I’ve seen it in the students that I’ve had and I’m pretty sure employers are finding the same thing with their female workers. They’re seeing great results.”

Su’s former student Cheyney Caddy says it’s teachers like Su who are making a real difference in the industry.

“Su gave me a lot of one-on-one help. I think it was particularly fantastic having a teacher who didn’t underestimate what I was capable of,” said Cheyney, who currently works as a set builder.

“All the young men that she trains are going out with a respect for women and what they can achieve, and so that’s a cycle breaker in itself.”

The Empowered Women in Trades Gala was held on 23 February 2024, with seven awards celebrating Australia’s most outstanding women in trades. Six candidates from Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland were in the running for the Exceptional Educator accolade.

Comments attributable to Bendigo TAFE Chief Executive Officer Sally Curtain:

“Educators like Su are what makes TAFE special. Beyond showing our students the ropes, Su is leading by example and inspiring countless other women to forge a strong and lasting career in trades.

“We’re so proud of Su and her achievements, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition amongst Australia’s most outstanding women in trades.

“Right across Victoria there’s a critical skills shortage across construction, including trades like carpentry, electrical and plumbing, with 34,000 new workers needed by 2025. With our team of industry-experienced educators, Bendigo TAFE is committed to empowering both women and men to gain vital skills and overcome barriers to enter this in-demand sector.”

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