30 March 2023

Women, want to build a better home? Get in one of two sheds

| Zoe Cartwright
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two men building a chair for TV

Jo Saccomani and Adam Dovile build a chair – and a Better Homes and Gardens episode. Photo: Two Sheds Workshops.

If you know the frustration of waiting for a husband, dad or brother to put up a shelf, Jo Saccomani has the solution.

Do it yourself.

The qualified carpenter has built a business out of giving women the skills they need to get on the tools, whether for a bit of a DIY blitz or as a springboard for their own career in a trade – and she’s so good at it, she’s been featured on Better Homes and Gardens.

“It’s incredibly empowering to just chuck up a shelf where you want it, or build or fix something yourself instead of waiting on someone else,” she said.

“Shelter is our most basic need. For women to be able to build that, maintain it and make it what they want it to be is really profound on a lot of deep levels.”

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Jo began learning her trade in 1984 as part of a Hawke government employment program that saw the number of women in trades soar – half of her TAFE class comprised women.

She spent 30 years running her own business as a builder and a carpenter before she set up the Two Sheds Workshop in Bega, where she runs classes for women and kids who want to develop carpentry skills.

“Other women always told me they wish they had been a carpenter, they wish they had those skills,” she said.

“And it’s not rocket science! It’s just that boys are more often encouraged to use tools growing up, so then they’re more familiar with them, more dexterous and confident, and it flows from there.”

Bega women leapt at the opportunity, and the business quickly outgrew its original shed, expanding to include a Canberra workshop as well.

On top of providing women with the skills they need for personal projects, Jo hopes getting young girls on the tools will encourage more of them to take on a trade when they finish school.

women with woodwork

Jo said one of the best parts of her job was seeing women experience the satisfaction of building something themselves. Photo: Two Sheds Workshops.

Although there are fewer women in the building industry than men, Jo said having a trade was a pathway for women who wanted to work in an environment where they called the shots.

After grinding through an apprenticeship, qualified tradies can start their own business.

“Once people in the industry know you and know what you’re on about, that’s it,” she said.

“They become your advocates, and if you have your own licence you’re in charge of your environment, you have control over your worksite.”

Two Sheds Workshops’ work attracted the attention of TV’s Better Homes and Gardens more than a year ago, but due to COVID restrictions it took some time to get filming.

Although she was hesitant at first, when the crew arrived Jo knew she’d made the right decision.

“I’ve had interviews in the past that are very patronising, very ‘good on you girls for having a go’ when in reality women vastly out-represent themselves in apprentice of the year and things like that,” she said.

Better Homes and Gardens arrived and they were respectful and genuinely interested – we filmed for two days and it was fun as.”

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The feature loosely followed the format of Jo’s favourite two-day workshop. The first day, Jo provides practical skills for participants, and on the second day they build their own Adirondack chair.

“We built the chair with Adam Dovile and it was a hoot,” Jo said.

“He’s a carpenter too, so we had a good chat about building.

“After 40 years of triteness about girls having a go, I was really happy with how Better Homes and Gardens approached the story.”

And if you were wondering why the Adirondack chair workshop is Jo’s favourite, it’s no secret.

“The women come for two days and start with the basics, as simple as how to hold a drill,” she said.

“On the second day, they come in and just start building their chair. They’re not coming to learn that second day, they’re coming to build.

“I always ask them to stop for five seconds in the middle of the second day and think about how they came in, and what they’re doing now, and they just start beaming.

“This is my life’s work. I’ve been working my way to this point without even realising it.”

To book a class in Bega or Canberra, head to the Two Sheds Workshops website.

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