Vicky started her apprenticeship ‘in a man’s world’ at age 35, and hasn’t looked back since

Vicky started her apprenticeship ‘in a man’s world’ at age 35, and hasn’t looked back since

Vicky Yates is one of the female butchers in Australia bucking a trend in the male-dominated industry, beginning a new career as an apprentice butcher in 2020.

Key points:

  • Vicky Yates started an apprenticeship as a butcher at age 35, after moving to Australia
  • Females make up just 6 per cent of butchers and smallgoods makers
  • The Australian Meat Industry Council says more women are joining the industry

Federal government statistics show women make up just 6 per cent of the Australian butcher and smallgoods industry.

Mrs Yates spent most of her life in Birmingham in the United Kingdom, before making the move to Australia in 2012. 

With no family history in the industry, Mrs Yates “fell into” a job working at the counter of a butcher in Adelaide after a career in transport management. 

When she moved to South Australia’s Riverland for her husband’s work, she met her now employer, Nigel Rollbusch. 

“When we moved here, Nigel had only just set up shop and I told him about my experience,” she said. 

“He approached me and he offered me the apprenticeship… that’s when I said ‘Why not?’ I’ve always wanted to do a trade.

Mrs Yates says her employers have supported her in the role. (ABC Riverland: Timu King)

“I thought, ‘I’d love to be a female in a man’s world’.” 

Mrs Yates said the support of her workplace had made it an easy career choice, despite the gender ratio in the industry. 

“As a female we can do it, with the backing of employers, family and partners,” she said. 

“We have to get out there in these trades… just to prove that we can do it,” she said.

Mrs Yates says her attention to detail helps her be a better butcher.(ABC Riverland: Timu King)

More women entering the industry

Australian Meat Industry Council general manager of retail Stuart Fuller said more women were entering the industry, which had seen a resurgence during the pandemic as more people shopped local.

“[More women in the industry] has happened naturally, gender diversity across the trade is very important,” he said.

Mr Fuller says demand from consumers grew during the pandemic.(ABC Rural: Lucy Cooper)

Mr Fuller said it had been important to showcase that being a butcher was a viable career for women.

“Women are very vital to addressing the trade skills shortage we have in Australia,” he said.

Mr Fuller said attracting a varied workforce was also important to bringing in a broader range of customers.

“Retailers who offer a diverse workplace resonate better with customers,” he said.

“Shops who have a strong and diverse workforce have greater insights and perspective.”



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