A chance encounter has propelled a young woman into a career in the automotive industry.
- A program is encouraging young women and girls to get involved in the automotive industry
- The program has connected a 21-year-old woman with a job
- Women are under-represented in STEM studies and in the automotive industry
Tarli Goss was pulling apart her car in a car park at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus when the director of the Bendigo Tech School, Graeme Wiggins, spotted her.
“We found her one hot summer’s day with her car disassembled over three parking bays and went over to find out what she was up to,” Mr Wiggins said.
“We ended up saying there’s a project you should really come and have a look at.”
I have invited Ms Goss to get involved in Girls in STEAM Electric Car program, which immerses young women in the automotive industry.
That program has now led the 21-year-old to work at a Bendigo auto repair business.
‘I wanted to service my own car’
Ms Goss said she had not considered a career in the automotive industry until she got her car and license.
Music was one of her passions growing up, and she played the violin at a level that provided her with opportunities to travel to learn and perform.
Ms Goss became interested in a new set of instruments when she introduced a 1994 Toyota Corolla.
“I wanted to service my own car,” she said.
“I thought it would just be cool to have general knowledge about cars.
“That way, I could help some of my friends because I know it’s not a very common thing for people of our age or even in this generation to actually know about even changing a tire.”
She was already completing an automotive course at TAFE when she met Mr Wiggins.
Studies were part of the reason she was pulling apart her car that summer’s day.
“I kind of just wanted to look more into my car and build a relationship with it,” Ms Goss said.
Connecting need with interest
It was through her involvement with the Bendigo Tech School that Ms Goss connected with her employer.
She was part of the team working on the Girls in STEAM Electric Car — an aspirational technology project that aims to help educate the community about the future of transport.
“The concept was to convert an old four-wheel-drive — in this case, a Range Rover — into a Tesla-powered electric car,” Mr Wiggins said.
The project, which started in April 2021, is ongoing, with work expected to be 90 per cent complete by the end of the year.
Ms Goss said she was involved in a couple of sessions, including some hands-on work on the car.
“And then Graeme reached out and said he’d been talking to Bendigo Accident Repair Centre,” she said.
Mr Wiggins said Ms Goss was well positioned to walk straight into an industry of interest to her because she was already engaged in pre-apprenticeship training.
“It was just a way that we could connect need with interest,” Ms Wiggins said.
Women under-represented in STEM
Community and industry connections have been integral to the program’s development and delivery.
Such was the support that Mr Wiggins said the initiative had no permanent home.
“We just keep moving it around depending on who we need to work with,” he said.
In addition to providing the community with opportunities to experience the possibilities of electric cars, Mr Wiggins said the project was about investing in young people and their futures.
“Women are under-represented in the STEM sector,” he said.
“If you exclude allied health, only 11 per cent of tertiary STEM enrollments are women, and even fewer than that are represented in trades.
“Of those that are represented in trades, not all of them have hands-on trades roles.
“So, it was important to me, understanding the employment needs of the region, that I wanted to encourage as many young women into engineering and trades pathways as possible.”
Ms Goss said she was older than most of the young women in the program, who were still in high school.
“It’s good to see that young women have actual interest in what’s always been considered as a man’s job, which I think is really important in our society,” she said.
Ms Goss said she was glad young women were being encouraged to enter the industry.
More than three-quarters of automotive repair and maintenance employees from organizations reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency are men.
Ms Goss is the only woman in the workshop at the repair centre.
She has only been in the job a couple of months but says she is enjoying the experience.
“I’m looking forward to keep working here in the future,” Ms Goss said.