Leading rail industry education provider, Training Ahead Australia (TAA), says the number of women interested in pursuing a career in the industry has doubled in the past three years, as a skills shortage continues to cripple the critical industry.

In 2022, more than 6200 people have contacted TAA about working in the rail industry. Of these, about 10 percent identified as women. This compares to 2020, when the organisation helped over 4700 people and clients, of whom just 5.5 percent were female.

This comes as a persistent worker shortage in the industry continues. According to an Australasian Railway Association report released in March 2022, the shortfall of skilled rail industry staff across the sector is predicted to hit 70,000 by 2023.

The report also notes the most recent employer survey by Australian Industry Standard found nearly 90 percent of rail sector employers reported experiencing a skills shortage in the previous 12 months.

Among the women who has taken the leap into working in the rail industry is 56-year-old Carolyn O’Loughlin. With no prior experience working in the field, O’Loughlin began her training at TAA in December 2021.

She recently completed her training and began working in January 2022 as a track force protection coordinator.

O’Loughlin is now working on a major project at the Gippsland Line Upgrade, estimated to cost $531 million across two phases.

“I had never worked in the rail industry before, but I am so glad I made the pivot and I love it. I work close to my home in a career I wouldn’t have thought of if a friend of mine hadn’t recommended it,” she says.

More than 60 percent of the staff at TAA are women and the organisation is proud to be sponsoring the Women in Rail Scholarship at Ausrail 2022.

Founding director Dannielle Walz has seen significant change in the industry since she began working in the field eight years ago, and she hopes more women will jump on the opportunity to pursue a career in the industry.

“While having more women in the industry won’t magic away the skilled worker shortage, we hope to be part of the solution to this issue which has been on the radar for some years now and has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” she said.

“We aim to provide a safe environment for women to level up and become qualified to work in the field. I’m pleased to see there’s been a significant increase in women considering a career in rail. Whether that’s working as a safety coordinator, or in administration, there’s so many opportunities for us in the industry.”

This feature first appeared here.

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