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Hi-Vis event showcases the opportunities for young Coast women.

The East Coast will get more women in the trades if Kat Kaiwai has her way.

Around 50 female students from five schools on the Coast attended the Girls with Hi-Vis event held in Ruatoria and put on by Connexis and Kat.

Kat has been in the construction industry for 12 years and is a managing director at Tairawhiti Contractors.

Now close to the top, she is trying to make it easier for other women to work in the trades.

Kat organised the event to show female students the opportunities out there, give them hands-on experience and learn what a career in the infrastructure industry can offer.

“I'm so proud of the support we've got in this region and from the schools,” she said.

Kat said she wanted more young women to take up opportunities available at the big infrastructure companies when they left school because the jobs were there and paid well.

“There needs to be more awareness in the community that the options are endless and these jobs are for women as much as men.

“I hope the companies involved today spread the message of the importance of women in trades and getting qualifications.”

One of the students who attended the event, said she met a lot of interesting people and had a lot of fun on the machines.

“We learned a lot of cool stuff about the loading truck. I didn't expect it to interest me but it was so cool and interesting. The digger experience was also awesome. It was fun controlling it and moving the sticks.”

Kat said women from a range of trades spoke about their experience in the industry.

“We had managing directors who have done stabilising, operators who have been in quarries and truck drivers.

“It was funny listening to how some of them were pointed into ‘typical' female careers,” Kat said.

One speaker told the students how she was sent to Hamilton to do a makeup and hairdressing course.

“She wasted all her parents' money studying something she did not like, then she joined the trades and loved it,” said Kat. “I wanted to show to the girls that you can join this industry.

“It's not something you have to fall into.”

Connexis is New Zealand's infrastructure industry training organisation — the standard-setting body appointed by the Government.

Chief executive Kaarin Gaukrodger said the East Coast was lucky to have someone like Kat step forward and showcase the opportunities for young women.

“It's great that Kat is prepared to stand up and co-ordinate such a fantastic event for students around the Coast and get so many companies in the region involved so the message can be spread and opportunities made available for young women.

“It provides insights into what's possible and instils confidence.”

Girl in Hi-Vis: Raiha Brooking loved giving it a go on a digger at the Girls with Hi-Vis event in Ruatoria. Picture supplied