Picture: Fiona Shewring (right) receives HIA's Constructive Woman of the Year.
After a lifetime of dedicating herself to driving social change and training tradespeople, TAFE NSW Illawarra’s Fiona Shewring has been named the HIA Constructive Woman of the Year.
The Painting and Decorating Teacher and Founder and President of the Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen (SALT) Foundation received the prestigious award at HIA’s Recognition of Women in Industry Awards held in Brisbane recently.
"It's always such a huge honour to win something like this. I always feel like it’s a validation for what I dedicate my life to. And it’s an accolade for the people I work with at SALT, they are part of this.”
The reasons for Fiona’s award win are clear. Not only is she the driving force behind SALT – which provides a support network for tradeswomen, apprentices and women who wish to enter a trade – Fiona was also recognised for her outstanding commitment to education and volunteer work for the broader community.
“SALT has really grown and generated social change via a number of innovative initiatives, including a mobile workshop that travels the country demonstrating and teaching trade skills. This is the only one of its kind in the world,” says Fiona.
Volunteering to support our farmers
Fiona and her fellow SALT tradeswomen also volunteer their time to support drought stricken farmers by restoring their properties.
“We’re heading out to Lightening Ridge in the upcoming TAFE NSW holidays to volunteer.
“I encourage all TAFE teachers – female or male – to consider joining us. It’s an experience that allows us to use our skills to give back to the community and keeps us current as educators.”
Running the first Tradeswomen Australia Conference
The award also precedes a big week for Fiona, with SALT holding its first Tradeswomen Australia Conference at the Wollongong Town Hall this Thursday and Friday.
Fiona says that part of the inspiration for the conference was to show tradeswomen that there are many others like them.
“I went to a conference in America where I sat with 600 tradeswomen,” she says.
“I was absolutely blown away. I just thought ‘I’ve got to bring this to Australia at some point’.”
Fiona’s message for people considering a career in trades is to not let society decide what jobs they can and can’t do.
“Jobs do not have a gender. You can be whatever you want to be.”
TAFE NSW celebrates Fiona's success
Belinda Mackinnon, TAFE NSW Illawarra’s Relieving Institute Director, says: “Fiona’s role in influencing social change in the trades industry is inspiring to her students, her colleagues and her industry.
“We are proud to have an educator who is so committed to making real change in the world and to skilling the Australian workforce.