More women in the world of craft trades

Girls and women are challenging stereotypes in the craft trades. They are removing prejudice by completing training in a "typical male" craft trade occupation. Take 19-year-old Marit Westphal for instance.

Whether working as tile layers, motor vehicle mechatronics technicians, carpenters, painters and varnishers or plant mechanics for plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, girls and young women are challenging stereotypes in the craft trades. They are removing prejudice by completing training in a craft trade occupation which many still regard as "typically male".

Andreas Monzer from the car servicing centre Autoservice Monzer in Wittstock belongs to one of those training companies taking on a "woman in a male occupation". Marit Westphal is Monzer's motor vehicle mechatronics trainee and has been a great addition to his team since August 2021. The automotive company has been providing training since it was established in 1991. And now they’re also training a young woman.

“A girl in the workshop?”

It was the first time for both parties, although 19-year-old Marit knew from an early age that she wanted to work on cars.

Owner Andreas Monzer can recall how it went at the beginning with Marit. “Oh I was certainly very sceptical at the start. How is it going to work, having a girl in the workshop ...? We have many years of experience in delivering training but I just couldn’t see it working ... now, I'm a bit annoyed I didn't have the courage to give young women an opportunity in our workshop earlier. In fact, we'd previously already had enquiries, all great opportunities, which we wasted."

Monzer now knows there was no reason for that and advises his colleagues to seriously consider young women in the workshops. "I'm glad we got over this initial wariness. And yes, to be totally honest, the initial weeks were not easy, particularly around issues relating to physical strength. However, we found ways round this as a team and Marit worked with us really well!"

Passion for her dream job

The 19-year-old from Wittstock was able to overcome obstacles and fought for her dream occupation as a motor vehicle mechatronics technician. Even as a child, this was her dream job.t. Thanks to her grandfather, she'd experienced just how much fun it was to work on lots of different vehicles on a large site. Her career path appeared to be predetermined.

Within the family, however, there was initially limited enthusiasm for this kind of "male occupation". She therefore began training as an optician after gaining the university of applied sciences entrance qualification specialising in social welfare. However she unfortunately dropped out of this after two months. And she followed this by starting the training she had dreamed of.

"I’ve settled in here and I love what I’m learning"

After a two-day trial working for Andreas Monzer, he agreed to offer her training. Today she is happy that it is going so well. "I would do the same again, always. When I came to the business, it was like joining a small family. My colleagues are great, we're a real team. And if I really can't do something, I simply ask for help. For example, for physical work I have come up with a few tricks and they're working well. I'm really proud of what I've achieved so far. I’ve settled in here and I love what I’m learning".

She would advise her peers to not allow themselves to be talked out of anything, not even by their family, and to stick at it. She said this was the only way she could convince her critics, who still believe it’s harder for girls in the craft trades. Marit’s family are now also pleased and proud of the determination their daughter has shown to get to her dream occupation in which she is now pursuing her career.

Even in her free time she can't leave cars alone – together with her friend she spends time taking her own car apart and putting it back together in a small private workshop.

Approximately 15 percent are female trainees

As of 31 December 2021, the number of trainees in the Potsdam Chamber of Crafts and Trades district was just under 3,500, of which around 540 were women. Training occupations with the most females in training positions are optician (48), baker (11), salesperson specialising in foodstuffs (33), hairdresser (86), office manager (64) and pastry cook (34). However the list also includes vehicle mechatronics technician (17), painter and varnisher (15), carpenter (32) and dental technician (47).

Steffi Amelung, head of the vocational education and training department, is seeing the transformation in training and in the companies. "The trend is noticeable. We are seeing young women with the clear aim of entering into a technical dual training programme in the craft trades.This is either because taking on the family business is a long-held dream, or because they want to go for alternative career moves in the craft trades. They have looked into the occupation and the career path in depth and have a detailed understanding of the opportunities in the craft trades."

The chambers of crafts and trades support both parties – the women and the training companies – with coaching sessions for training and with discussions. They also engage on a reciprocal basis with training ambassadors and mentor projects to be able provide support in those areas which apply specifically to women in "typically male occupations". 

Marit Westphal, the aspiring vehicle mechatronics technician, also has plans for the future. The to-do list already includes master craftsperson training and a potential specialisation in professional tuning. Until then, she's also using her Instagram account to share her professional passion with others. The craft trades in West Brandenburg could hardly wish for a better training ambassador.

Source: (magazine of the German skilled crafts sector), revised by iMOVE, May 2023