An ambassador for women in the carpentry trade, Gail Tamakam, from Vanuatu has been in the construction industry for over 20 years and working with men is nothing new for her.

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) graduate completed studies at Certificate III level in wall and floor tiling in Fiji, followed by carpentry in her home country. Ms Tamakam has gone from strength to strength in the construction industry, and remains passionate about her work, part of which includes sharing her knowledge with students.

Being a woman and teaching in a male-dominated class is no walk in the park, but for Ms Tamakam, studying and working in APTC’s supportive environment has helped her gain confidence.

“Working in a construction industry, you will face challenges with cultural barriers, the language used towards you, and the norm of doing things. But as you go along, these challenges make you stronger and will help you tackle anything”, she said while speaking at the Pacific Skills Summit in Suva, Fiji.

Ms Tamakam highlighted that since APTC entered its third phase in June 2018, supported by the Australian Government and managed by TAFE Queensland, positive changes have evolved, resulting in improved teaching systems and learning contexts.

”I am more engaged with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program where we work with communities and identify relevant training requirements so we are able to better deliver APTC programs.”

Speaking to a packed room at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at The University of the South Pacific, Ms Tamakam reaffirmed her current passion, which is to encourage women to ‘pick up the tools’ and be successful in traditionally male-dominated fields.

“APTC has done great work in implementing policies that are gender inclusive, especially for women in the workplace and also in male-dominated trades,” she shared.

Her only advice to women is to pursue whatever their hearts tell them to, and to do their best in whatever trade they pursue. She added that family support, especially from husbands, partners and other allies, has been instrumental for women like her working in non-traditional trades.

Gail is one of 18 women trainers at APTC, including 3 women who are trainers in non-traditional trades such as carpentry, light vehicle automotive, and metal fabrication.