You started an Australian Apprenticeship at Hargo Engineering the day after completing your school exams, what made you choose this tertiary pathway?

I did an apprenticeship because it was a good balance between hands-on work and hands-on learning and also good problem solving challenges, and with maths and those kind of challenges as well, so it provided a good balance for me. 

Did you always want to work in fitting and machining?

No, I didn’t even know what it was until I was 16 or 17 and I did some work experience in a factory.

That was my introduction, and I didn’t really consider it as a pathway until I was halfway through Year 12. I kind of I realised it was a really good career path for me and the way that I’m wired, so I kind of changed my mind and got into that instead.

What did you enjoy most about your course at Swinburne University of Technology?

It was really good to have a theoretical component and you learn all the fundamentals of the trade, and then [it’s great] to go out into the workshop and put all of those skills to use, and to make something tangible, and to see your skills being used, not just in a textbook but have practical skills to go along with your learning, to give you a really good base of skills for the trade. 

You won the Australian Apprentice of the Year Award at the 2014 Australian Training Awards, what do you think led to your success?

Well, I suppose I’m really passionate about what I do, and I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

I suppose when you love what you’re doing, you tend to put all of yourself into it, and it’s not so much of a chore to go to work every day, and through that I’m really keen just to get to work and keep learning and exploring a trade.

I think that kind of tenacity really came through in my learning and it got a bit of recognition through the TAFE system and then consequently through the training awards. 

Are there many women in this field?

No, there’s not a heap. I didn’t actually meet any other apprentices while doing my TAFE that were women.

However, where I work, actually about a third of the people are women, and there’s another female tradesperson who’s just a bit older than me. So we’re a bit of an odd, stand-out company in that regard. 

Was does a typical day at work involve for you at the moment?

A lot of what I do is sitting and programming automatic machines to manufacture small parts for various industries.

So, it goes from raw bars that are fed into the machine, and I tell the machine how to cut that bar to produce a part that the customer wants, and then I put all the tools in and make sure it’s doing it correctly and manage the job, all the way through.

On top of that I do a bit of technical drawing and drafting ... and a little bit of maintenance on machines that we use. 

What do you love most about your job?

I love the challenges that I get.

We don’t make our own products, we always make other people’s products and we always get new customers and more complicated work coming through, like aerospace kind of stuff, and it’s very challenging to produce parts to the standards that we have to make them.

I love working through a process, like coming out at the end and actually achieving what seemed like near to impossible two weeks ago. I like that the most.

And also just getting my hands dirty, I love getting into it and not just punching buttons on a computer all day, but using spanners and hammers and getting into it and working with something tangible.  

Can you offer any advice for those who might want to take on an apprenticeship?

If possible, get some work experience before jumping into an apprenticeship.

Even if you’re looking at a tertiary pathway, just get some work experience in the career outcome and just find out if it really suits you.
That was the number one thing for me.

If I hadn’t have done work experience in my trade back when I was in Year 10, I wouldn’t have even known it was an option, and my life would’ve been completely down a different path.

Then, also, finding an employer that suits your needs and is going to support you in your learning and skilling up as a tradesperson.
[Look for] someone who’s going to look after you, not just the first person who offers you an apprenticeship, especially if you’re in a non-traditional trade as a woman.