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NorthTec carpentry student, Kim Cullen, is happy to be a woman working in a man’s world.
Kim, who has just completed her level 4 Certificate in Carpentry, has gone straight into full time employment at a Whangarei interior fitting company.
Being the only female on a site of more than 40 workers does not deter her and she is encouraging other women to follow suit.
Kim, 40, says she enjoys a bit of workplace banter but has firm boundaries which her co-workers know better than to step over. Having a bit of maturity and life experience on her side is a help, she adds.
Kim, her husband and their four sons returned to New Zealand last year from a ten-year spell living and working in Australia. Coming back to Whangarei to be close to their parents, the family settled in but Kim found it hard to find a job, despite years of experience in a variety of industries.
Having previously “loved” a long-term job in Perth making timber blinds, Kim decided to capitalise on her skills working with wood and tools and looked at local study options. She enrolled on the year-long NorthTec carpentry programme, where she found herself one of two women in the class.
While her female colleague left the programme following a job offer, Kim continued and worked her way through each challenge. Towards the end of the programme she started working part-time for Northland Interiors, fitting out commercial and industrial premises.
She is now working for the company full time and is really enjoying her new career. She says while it is now common to find women working in the trades and construction industry in Australia, it is still a rarity in New Zealand.
Kim, who was born and raised in Rāwene, said: “I’ve found the guys are pretty good to work with. It could be intimidating for a young woman, but because I’m a little bit more mature it’s easier for me to handle the situation. I’m really sociable as well, so I don’t mind having a laugh and I’m not afraid of a bit of banter.”
Her long-term plans including getting ahead in the construction industry, and buying and fully renovating a house for her family.
To women who are considering a job in a trade, Kim says: “If I can inspire one woman to give the trades a go, or get into a male-dominated area, then I’m really happy about that – get out there and trailblaze!”
NorthTec carpentry tutor, John Pratt, said Kim was a pleasure to have in his class and set a great example to the mainly young men she studied with. He said: “She has been delightful in the sense that she has been so willing to take on new ideas and she has continually improved. If I had ten more like her it would be a pleasure – I’ve been here thirty years and Kim has been one of my best students.”
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