A young Wangaratta woman is determined to set her career on a non-traditional new path by completing an engineering training course being run for the first time.
Brittany Gibbs will next week start the Girls of Steel program, which teaches young women from disadvantaged backgrounds foundational engineering skills in a hands-on, workplace-based training environment and connects them with a job at the end.
Ms Gibbs left school at the end of year 10 and has had a variety of jobs, including in administration and hospitality, but none of them stuck.
"It was something new that I wanted to try," she said.
"I liked hospitality, but I'm a bit over it now, because it's been so long.
"Hopefully I get an apprenticeship afterwards and then I can go into the mines in a few years."
Ms Gibbs said that she'd found it hard to find full-time ongoing work, but she hoped the course would be the first step in a lifelong career.
"I wouldn't mind starting a business," she said.
"Creating fire pits, that'd be cool."
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The program will be run by The Skill Engineer, a social enterprise engaging individuals in economic, social and civic activity.
Director Brendan Ritchens said the course would help more women into engineering, an industry traditionally occupied by men.
"Often for young women it's not a consideration because they've been told it's not a job for them," he said.
"Whereas it simply is ... I have young women who are apprentices at my work and they do every bit, they are better apprentices than most of the guys I've got.
"The gender thing isn't, and shouldn't, be an issue."
Nationally, just over 12% of the engineering labour workforce is female.
Ms Gibbs said it was harder for young women to get into the industry.
"It's taken me until I'm 22 to push myself to do it," she said.
"Unless you kind of grow up around it, it can be hard to do something different.
"I was a bit nervous getting into something when there's just men; I think because there's more competition because you've got to sort to prove yourself to them."
But she said she was also excited for the work.
"When I was getting shown all the stuff on the computer I was like, 'that's awesome, I want to do that'," she said.
The 12-month program is funded through a $1.2 million dollar federal government grant and will also run in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast later this year.
Mr Ritchens, an engineer himself, said it would be an opportunity for participants to learn an "exceptional trade".
"The other pastoral care side of this is teaching the participants how to turn up on time, how to behave in the workplace, dress appropriately, create that work ethic," he said.
"The hours will support any women that may have young children, so they don't have to pay for childcare."
He said he wanted participants to finish the course ready for the workplace, so he'd also support participants to get their driver's licence, teach them business acumen and budgeting.
"So it's a more rounded course, it's not just a training in an engineering discipline and then shove them out the door," he said.
"It's about turning out someone who can think outside the box a bit and take their life in control of their own hands and do something with it.
"And the beauty of it, at the end of it, we will line you up with employment opportunities.
"There's a future attached to this and we stand behind you, hands on shoulders, each step of the way guiding you in the right direction."
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