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Women in Trades

How to Leverage a Labour Shortage in the Skilled Trades for a Meaningful Career

Worley header
Worley header
Stephen Hillier

Stephen Hillier

President Integrated Solutions Downstream, MM&M and Power

Kelly Droop

Kelly Droop

Vice President, Global Tools, Equipment, & Fleet, Worley

The work of skilled tradespeople touches nearly every part of our daily lives, from the literal foundations of our homes to the power lines that connect them. Pursuing a skilled trade like heavy equipment operation, welding, or plumbing isn’t just a meaningful way to participate in society — it’s a lucrative path that offers apprentices the ability to “earn while they learn” and to secure financial stability early in their careers.

It’s also an increasingly diverse sector. More women are entering the workforce today than ever before, and as they rise through the ranks and occupy senior positions, the tired narrative around skilled trades as a traditionally male field is starting to change.

“When we look at professional services, a lot of people think about doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other people in industries that require buildings, hospitals, and plants to work. Sometimes, we forget that it’s the men and women in skilled trades who have actually built these facilities,” says Stephen Hillier, President of Integrated Solutions at Worley, a leading global provider of professional project and asset services in the energy, chemicals, and resources sectors.

A labour shortage threatens the sector — but there’s an upside

Hillier, like many other trade professionals, is concerned with what’s gearing up to be a severe labour shortage. Older skilled tradespeople are retiring in spades, and there aren’t enough workers to fill the gap. The upshot? The shortage spells major opportunities for young people.

“We’re starting to reach a crisis in that there’s a shortage of technicians, which means there’s a huge opportunity in the trades for men and women,” says Hillier. “And they’re lucrative careers, with really good money early on.”

The labour shortage is so prevalent that it’s becoming common knowledge, but here’s a lesser-known fact: opportunities in the sector extend far beyond the trades themselves. “Although some people stay in the trades throughout their entire careers, there are so many peripheral jobs associated with the trades. So not only would you be able to go from the trades to supervision and operations, but project controls, quality, data analytics, and so on are also coming to the forefront,” says Hillier.

There are a lot more female executives in the energy industry now than when I started, and many of our customers’ companies are also led by women.

Kelly Droop, Worley

Climbing the ranks as a woman in the trades

The sector is still male-dominated, but that’s starting to change. Take Kelly Droop, Worley’s Vice President of Global Tools, Equipment, and Fleet. Droop, who has been with Worley for 30 years, credits part of her success to the company’s support of female employees. She started out as a personal assistant to an executive in what was supposed to be a 90-day temp job and got her first promotion 10 days later. Now, she’s leading major company asset deployment for projects all over the world.

“Being a woman in the skilled trades used to make me an oddball, and I’d often be the only woman in the room. Sometimes, I’d get mistaken for the wife of one of my employees at heavy equipment conferences,” she says. “But things are different now. I don’t get asked questions like, ‘do you think you can handle this kind of work?’ anymore. There are a lot more female executives in the energy industry now than when I started, and many of our customers’ companies are also led by women.”

Worley recently expanded its global reach through the acquisition of Jacobs’ Energy, Chemicals and Resources division, which Droop says has created even more opportunities for women (and men) to enter the sector. “Unlike many acquisitions, where companies immediately start cutting overlap, this one has been remarkably cohesive and collaborative. We’re expanding into new work we couldn’t have done before, which is exciting,” she says. 

About Worley: Worley delivers projects, provides expertise in engineering, procurement and construction and offers a wide range of consulting and advisory services. We cover the full life-cycle, from creating new assets to sustaining and enhancing operating assets, in the hydrocarbons, mining, mineral, metals, chemicals, power and infrastructure sectors. Our resources and energy are focused on responding to and meeting the needs of our customers over the long term and thereby creating value for our shareholders.

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