Having mouths to feed is a powerful motivator to work hard and build a successful career. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we share the stories of three mums building their trades careers, and we look at why hiring parents can be good for business.

The trades industry offers great opportunities for mothers who want a stable and rewarding career.

Mums with trades skills can expect to earn a good living to support their families. There’s a range of well-paid roles available in the growing industry, and statistics show women in the trades get paid the same as men for equal work.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we look at why employers value parents as part of a trades team, and share the experiences of mums who are working in the industry.

Added motivation

When it comes to needing a great reason to get to work in the morning, having children to support is hard to beat.

Sarah Peraua

Sarah Peraua, who has a seven-year-old son and one-month-old twin boys, says her children help her to be even more driven to succeed in her career.

“It definitely gives me motivation to work harder for my children and my family. I want to set a good example for my kids.”

Sarah’s employer Amon Johnson, director of Complete Build, says hiring parents has advantages for businesses.

“From an employer’s point of view, I find that people who have children are more reliable. Obviously they’ve got to support their children, so their motivation to get to work can be a lot greater than that of people who don’t have children.”

Camille McKewin, mother to six-year-old Madelin, was driven to start her own business after training in the trades. This allowed her to have more control over her schedule and spend more time with her daughter.

Camille McKewen

“That’s the good thing about having your own business. Working for yourself, you don’t have to work nine to five. It’s all on your terms.”

Being flexible

Of course, having children does come with challenges for parents in the trades.

A common issue is that trades jobs can have earlier starting times than the traditional 9am-5pm schedule.

Elaine Pereira, who is married with children aged two and four, needed to negotiate her working hours to allow for dropping her son at daycare in the mornings.

“They let me know the hours they needed me to work, and I told them I needed to talk to my family because a 7.30am start wasn’t going to work for me. My kid’s daycare doesn’t open until 8am, so that’s the earliest I can drop him off, which means I won’t be at work until 8.30.”

Her employer Trucks and Trailers, where Elaine is now working as an apprentice, offered her a job with a slightly later start than usual.

“They just asked whether I’d be able to come in early on the odd occasion if they needed me. And I’m happy to be flexible if they do need me to come in, especially because they’ve been flexible with me. It’s worked out well.”

Amon says all employment relationships require a bit of give and take.

“At the end of the day, that’s life, and you can’t expect a parent with a sick child to come to work. Employers have to be a bit flexible around parenting. I would say a large majority of employers are parents themselves, so they probably have empathy for that.”

The key to managing absent employees comes down to being organised, says Amon, who is a parent of twins.

“As long as the business has strategies to cope with things like sickness or absenteeism due to kids, it’s something that can be managed.

“The rest of the team might have to stay a bit later to meet our deadlines if someone’s away, but everyone understands that. My team is pretty good with picking up the slack if someone has to stay home with a sick child – and their co-workers who are parents do the same thing for them if they happen to be sick, so it’s really just a team thing.”

Finding support

For many mums, whānau support to help care for their children is key to balancing work and family life.

Sarah says her parents have been there to look after her eldest son when she’s needed to work.

“My mum picks up my son after she finishes work so I can continue working until five o’clock. She sometimes takes him to morning school care as well. And if I wanted to work on Saturdays, my parents would both look after him.”

Elaine shares household responsibilities with her husband to ensure she has time for her work and apprenticeship.

“When I need to do my studies he’ll look after the kids, which is fantastic. With cooking dinner, doing the washing and cleaning the house, we share that work.”

Open communication

Elaine says communicating openly with your employer is especially important for parents.

“Just being open when you’re applying for a job, telling them straight-up what things you can and can’t do, and having that open line of communication with my employer really helped me.

“They know that if my kids are sick and I can’t get anyone else to come pick them up, then I’ll have to leave, and they’re really good with that.”

Amon says with good communication, an employer can better plan around any constraints in the employee’s schedule.

“When I hire people I tell them that if they need to pick their child up at a certain time each day, let me know at the beginning so I can fit that into my programme. As long as I know about it, I can make sure I don’t book them to be working at those times.”

He adds that all employees require some flexibility whether they’re parents or not – from sick days to time off for a dentist appointment.

“For example, I’ve got guys here who are Jehovah’s Witnesses who have one day a week off. So I know they are a four-day worker, and I don’t try to take on work for a five-day worker. A lot of it comes down to organisation.”

The business case for hiring parents:

    • Reliable workers:

Parents can have more experience with meeting their obligations and taking their responsibilities seriously. This helps them to be reliable at work, too.

    • Committed employees:

Parents have mouths to feed, so they’ll be motivated to work hard and have stable employment, says Amon Johnson, director of Complete Build. “From a business perspective, I prefer to employ parents because of that motivation and drive.”

    • Provide support:

By hiring parents, you’ll be helping them support their children, says Amon. “From a moral standpoint, I’d like parents to have a job to be able to support their families.”

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