The ACT Government says it’s confident it can find a construction company to build Strathnairn School with a 100 per cent female management team and women employed by every trade subcontractor.
Minister for Education and Minister for Women Yvette Berry said the tender process for the $62.4 million project would be fair and competitive, despite the gender quota imposed on it.
“The tender process will be available on TendersACT as it normally is and that will go through a process to ensure it is fair,” she said.
“But we’ve put those requirements in place and it will be clearly understood by the construction industry that we’ve asked for them to engage in this project in [this] way.”
Despite the industry being plagued by skill shortages at present, Ms Berry said the government had the opportunity to be selective about who it employed on its construction projects.
Only 2.6 per cent of people working in construction in the Territory were women, according to the latest released Census data (2016).
The government aims to increase this to 10 per cent in the next few years, and Ms Berry acknowledged there was still more work to be done.
Nevertheless, Ms Berry, who said she was taking a “glass-half-full approach” to finding a suitable tenderer, was confident there were enough suitably qualified women working in management roles in the construction industry to lead the project on-site.
She wasn’t, however, able to say whether she thought the successful tenderer would be a local company or not.
“We’ll wait and see what comes out in the wash.”
The conditions imposed on the project were part of an action plan and preparation was underway to ensure females were going into the construction industry, Ms Berry said.
This included a number of active programs in schools to expose girls to trades at a young age, which the Minister said was helping push women into the industry.
“We want to [increase the number of women working in construction] by allowing women and young women to see what they could be one day,” the Minister said.
“It’s not a job just for the boys.”
CEO of the Master Builders Association Michael Hopkins agreed with the need for the government to take the lead on initiatives such as this one.
The MBA is also working on an all-female-led charity house project in Strathnairn and Mr Hopkins said the experience had shown there were no jobs in the industry which could not be undertaken by females.
“We commend the government on using its procurement power to demonstrate the role of women in the building industry because we know that young females need role models and to be able to see more experienced females working in the industry to attract them into it,” he said.
“We’re confident that local companies would tender for this project.”
Mr Hopkins said as more women in the construction industry are working in management roles, he was confident in achieving the 100 per cent goal, and he expected sub-contractors to come to the table and uphold their end of the bargain, too.
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and Ginninderry will partner with the government to ensure the project is run in line with its requirements.
The government says Strathnairn School will be open by 2025.