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Last year, we published a story that lifted us.

Kerry Girvan was just one of the nine graduates of the Ginninderry SPARK & Master Builders ACT Women in Civil Construction training program in August 2019 and her story of finding a new vocation later in life hit us right in the feels.

Now, Ginninderry SPARK and Master Builders ACT are inviting women from Canberra and beyond to apply for the 2020 Women in Civil Construction training program. Read Kerry’s story below and find more information on the 2020 Enrolment Session and program here.


At first, Kerry Girvan and I struggle to hear each other on the phone. It sounds a bit like she’s standing on an airfield. It’s the 49-year old’s first week in her new job, but she’s not behind a desk.

“Sorry, I’m driving a roller today and it’s a bit windy,” she explains, informing me that she’s standing on a residential construction site in Whitlam, one of Canberra’s newest suburbs. Working outdoors on a winter day in Canberra may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but, for Kerry, it’s a dream come true.

Kerry is just one of the nine recent graduates of the Ginninderry SPARK & Master Builders ACT Women in Civil Construction training program. Delivered in partnership with multiple well-respected Canberra construction companies, the program encourages more women to consider a career path they may have previously overlooked.

SPARK’s Emma Sckrabei was named 2019 ACT Woman of the Year, in part due to her role in encouraging more women to consider a career in the construction sector.

“The civil construction sector has been actively exploring ways to encourage more women to take up jobs within the industry and this program is the first step in making that happen,” explains Emma.

The premise of the Women in Civil Construction program is simple—deliver a hands-on, intensive course across 10 weeks to initiate trainees into the world of construction.

This includes industry placements; which Emma explains are the key to the trainees making the transition to an ongoing placement after they graduate.

However, getting companies on board with the program hasn’t been an issue, with a diverse range of large construction firms rising to the challenge. At the end of Kerry’s program, all nine graduates were offered ongoing employment in the sector.

“This is a genuine commitment from the sector with several major civil contractors in the ACT coming together to provide industry work placements for training participants—and ultimately ongoing roles—for the nine women who successfully completed the program,” adds Emma.

Kerry Girvan.

Later, when we find a quiet moment between jobs, Kerry tells me that she was one of the many women who never considered a career in construction.

“Most of my life I worked on the land,” she explains. “Farming, horse work, cattle work. Last year I was on the road with 800 head of cattle 24/7.”

However, it was the fateful click of an internet pop-up that changed Kerry’s career path forever.

“This little thing popped up on my computer about the [Women in Civil Construction] program. I don’t normally open them,” she laughs. “But I thought I’d give them a ring and see what happens.”

After venturing to Canberra from her hometown of Bombala for the program’s Open Day, Kerry was hooked.

“I got a phone call to say, ‘Can you come for the medical’ and I thought, ‘Okay, this’ll change your life’, so away I went.”

Having worked on her Bombala farm her whole life, Kerry wasn’t concerned about the manual labour side of the training, but when it came to “bookwork” Kerry was apprehensive.

However, with the help of the Master Builders Association and industry experts, she sailed through the training—and enjoyed the comradeship on the way. With trainees aged from 18 to their early fifties, Kerry says it was a diverse but cohesive cohort.

“They’ve all been wonderful—we’ve made some great friendships. With the young ones I tried to look after them a bit. We’ve all helped each other out.”

Working onsite in Whitlam for BASE Contractors doing “a bit of everything” including cementing, levelling, laying slabs and digging trenches, Kerry says she can’t recommend the program enough, adding that “it’s opened everything up,” and given her “bigger opportunities to go further”. As of September 2020, Kerry has been working with BASE full-time for more than a year.

“I have a constant wage coming in without having to worry about the drought.”

As for where Kerry’s career may take her, she says she wouldn’t mind getting into training and assessment or OH&S or perhaps even engineering.

When I comment that the world is now her oyster, Kerry laughs and agrees.

“It really is,” she says. “I’m just sorry I [didn’t’] do it years ago.”


What: Ginninderry SPARK & Master Builders ACT Women in Civil Construction training program 2020 Enrolment Session
When: Wednesday 23 September 2020 from 10.30am–12.30 pm
Where: Master Builders ACT, 1 Iron Knob Street, Fyshwick
To book a place and check your eligibility please contact Ashleigh at Ginninderry on 1800 316 900 or at ashleigh@ginninderry.com
More information: Here


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