INCAT boss Robert Clifford has sent out a plea to all women: roll up your sleeves and join the crew.
The leading shipbuilder is on an aggressive recruitment drive and hopes women may be the answer to the nation's
manufacturing skills shortage. The company will even consider family-friendly hours in a bid to lure more females on
to its workfloor.
"We would be very happy to have more women because there is an imbalance at the moment," Mr Clifford said.
At present the ratio of men to women in the shipbuilding crew is 300 to 1, with only a sole woman involved in the
hands-on work. But Mr Clifford wants more -- lots -- as the company enters its expansion phase and tries to double
total workforce from about 400 to 800.
"Women could be the answer," Mr Clifford said. "I would even look at tailoring the work to suit their family needs,
offering 9am to 3pm hours." Last week Incat announced a new sale to a Spanish customer, and more deals
are in the pipeline.
But Incat is having trouble finding the extra staff to meet future orders. The company is looking interstate and even
putting a call out to retirees who might be interested in returning to work.
The company is seeking a range of skills, including welding, fabrication and fitting. Mr Clifford said women could be
perfect solution. "In other parts of the world, places like Russia and Poland, it's perfectly normal to have an equal
number of men and women in this environment," he said.
"I think it would be a big advantage for us to have a closer to equal ratio." Mr Clifford said women had "nothing to
fear" from the predominantly male workforce. He said the work was not physically challenging, with strict limits on
weights which both men and women were allowed to lift. While Incat has many women in its Derwent Park office,
there is only one female on its workfloor -- Deirdre Smith. Miss Smith operates a plasma cutter, which is a
computerised machine that cuts through steel plates.
When she started with Incat 11 years ago, Miss Smith recalled, she was a little nervous, but her fears soon subsided.
"I wasn't worried about all the men so much as the work," she said. But she has mastered her role and, in the words
of Mr Clifford "is as good as any bloke". Miss Smith said she imagined other women were probably intimidated by the
idea of working with so many men.
But she said those fears were unnecessary. "I feel like part of the family now -- they all treat me as an equal."