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AUSTRALIAN shipbuilding firm Austal announced a commitment to increase female representation in its workforce by boosting its female apprentice intake.

The company is looking to hire 45 female apprentices in 2019 and has to date filled 18 of these roles.

Its 2019 apprentice initiative is underpinned by its Pink Ship Program, which aims to increase female participation in its workforce across every department from the current 12% to at least 20%.

Austal subscribes to a “critical mass approach”, as preferred by the Royal Australian Navy, hiring a group of women to create substantial change and provide appropriate support systems.

Once hired, apprentices are mentored with senior trades staff who supervise their work and support their transition into the Austal team.

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Austal has expanded to three facilities in Henderson and Naval Base in WA, and is now seeking more than 260 local workers to fill positions.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan said, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, it is important to recognise the valuable contribution women make every day

“My government is committed to creating more local jobs and encouraging opportunities that build a more diverse workforce,” he said.

“Austal is committed to increasing women representation in the workforce and encouraging a positive cultural change across an industry that has been traditionally male dominated. With 260 local jobs on offer at the Henderson facility, now is the time to ensure WA workers have the skills to access the opportunities in the defence and shipbuilding industries.”

West Australian education and training minister Sue Ellery said: “We are committed to working with industry to increase opportunities for women to enter the industries of construction, shipbuilding and defence.”

“Apprenticeships and traineeships are important for the ongoing growth and success of Western Australia, and this Government is providing incentives to organisations to employ women in non-traditional trades,” Ms Ellery said.

“We want to increase the number of female apprenticeships and traineeships, and I commend Austal for playing their part in encouraging more women into these industries.”

West Australian women’s interests minister Simone McGurk said there is a strong correlation between the gender gap and economic performance; the business case for diversity is clear and well established.

“If we want to compete and flourish in a global economy and build communities that thrive, gender equality will be a key strategic advantage,” she said.

“Targets and quotas deliver results for women’s representation, and I applaud Austal for their initiative and commitment to ensuring a prosperous future for Western Australian women.”

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