Empowering Migrant and Refugee Women to Join the Construction Industry

Breaking Barriers and Building Networks.

The Taylor team at our Roseville College site hosted ten migrant and refugee women who are training to enter the construction industry. The women are supported through the University of Newcastle’s (UON) programme for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women and are the first cohort of students studying a Certificate II in Construction at TAFE NSW (Belmont).

UON Professor Temitope Egbelakin teamed up with the education provider to launch a training program to help local migrant and refugee women enter the workforce and break into the construction industry. As a migrant herself Temi, understands the challenge of joining the construction industry with the additional adversity of starting over in a new country.

In the course, the women learn real-world carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills, which will not only will set them up for paid jobs and apprenticeships in the future, but also restore confidence that women can do whatever they want. Many of the women arrived in Australia in the search for freedom and a better life after fleeing their home country.

The day began with a light morning tea, where Abbey Johnson, Head of Design and Innovation at Taylor welcomed the group. The women then heard from Chris Durrant, Mentor for Women in Trades at Verto, a not-for-profit employment, training and apprenticeship service provider based in NSW and the ACT. With a strong presence in Newcastle, Verto is notably committed to advancing women in non-traditional trades. Their ‘Women in Trades’ program champions the economic and personal growth of female tradies, addressing Australia’s skills shortage while supporting and promoting women’s success in the industry.

Chantelle Jones, Construction Supervisor at Kaplan Homes, also shared her inspiring career journey with the CALD women. Beginning her career at 15 years old, Chantelle had completed her Certificate III in Wall and Floor Tiling by 19 and a Certificate IV in Building and Construction by 22. She soon established her own business, garnering recognition with a ‘Women in Construction’ award in 2017. Chantelle’s extensive expertise in the building sector led her to Sydney, where she has excelled as a Construction Supervisor with Kaplan Homes for the past five years.

In an intimate and relaxed forum fostering open dialogue and collaborative discussion, the women were encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts, leading to enriching conversations centred around empowerment and finding opportunities within the workforce. A significant takeaway was the importance of visible female representation in senior leadership roles, highlighting the necessity of mentorship and the creation of supportive networks for women by women.

2 verto kaplan university of newcastle migrant refugee women tour taylor construction education partnership diversity
3 ladies talking university of newcastle migrant refugee women tour taylor construction education partnership diversity
4 women laughing university of newcastle migrant refugee women tour taylor construction education partnership diversity

The women expressed concerns about potential language barriers affecting their job prospects, particularly in construction site-based roles, and the need for workplace flexibility to accommodate their commitments to young families at home. Addressing these concerns, Taylor provided education on the various office-based roles available within the construction industry, broadening the participants’ perspectives. Discussions were held about viable career paths that offer flexibility and inclusivity, including contract administration, estimating, design, marketing, and communications, emphasising that the construction sector has more to offer than traditional site-based positions.

Dean Fondas, Project Director, and Ben Langshaw, Site Manager, then presented a brief project overview before leading an informative site tour. For most of the women, it was their first time on a live construction site. Explaining construction methodology and key challenges, the women gained valuable insights into the day-to-day operations on-site, including site safety induction. The day concluded with lunch and more networking opportunities, a great chance to further develop connections.

Many thanks to 3 Tomatoes for providing catering for the event. Run by two Syrian Sisters, 3 Tomatoes is an Inner West café offering Middle Eastern infused dishes.

Taylor is proud to partner with education and employment partners such as UON and Verto to provide opportunities for students to develop their skills and knowledge beyond the classroom, as well as create valuable industry connections to help with career development.

Professor Temitope Egbelakin,

Construction Mgt. /Disaster Resilience
School of Architecture and Built Environment
University of Newcastle

Many thanks to Taylor Construction for organising this site visit for the women. It brings to life what they are learning in the classroom, as well as valuing and appreciating the organisation’s contribution to cultural diversity and empowering women in construction initiative.

Jessica Evans,

Client Relationship Manager

Rebuilding your life in a foreign country takes strength, courage and much resilience – I know as my grandmother was one of these women. It was both a pleasure and an honour to spend some quality time empowering these women to enter the construction industry – this industry would be fortunate to have them.