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Stacey and Olivia are powering their careers as female electricians in a male-dominated industry

Powering our careers in a male-dominated industry

This article appears in:
Future and Focus, Changing Careers, Vocational Education and Training, Trades

Are you a woman chasing a career in the trades? Be inspired by Stacey and Olivia. They're taking part in an all-female training program, called Power Careers, to forge a future in the largely male-dominated electrical and refrigeration trades. See how they’re combining job placements, trades training and a strong work ethic to power ahead.

The program provides innovative, tailored and intensive training to NT women, enabling them to enter the electrical, refrigeration and air conditioning industry. It’s delivered by GTNT, the NT’s largest employer of apprentices and trainees; CDU VET, the NT’s largest provider of training courses; and the NT Department of Trade, Business and Innovation.

In 2018, 14 women were trained and 12 of those took on apprenticeships with local electrical companies. In the last two weeks of the program, participants work with GTNT to find ongoing job opportunities.

Being accepted by “the blokes”

Stacey and Olivia are female electricians forging a career in a male-dominated industry

Stacey and Olivia completed their training with CDU VET and are now employed by Darwin-based Combined Electrical as apprentice electricians at the new netball complex at Marrara. They’re both pleased at how readily they have been accepted by “the blokes” at work.

“I’m really enjoying the job,” says 27-year-old Stacey, who was working as a support worker for a disability company in Katherine when she heard about the GTNT Power Careers program. "There's absolutely no reason why girls can't be tradies."

There’s absolutely no reason why girls can’t be tradies.

Stacey says the first phase of the program – which included training at CDU VET and work placement over 26 weeks – was hard but satisfying. “We were all starting from scratch, so we began by learning basic stuff about tools. Some of the training was challenging, especially the maths.”

Olivia, who at 17 is the youngest apprentice on the program, went to GTNT after working as a Zookeeper at Crocodylus Park. "I love animals, but I wanted a good, hands-on trade that would support me for life. My dad who is also a sparky says he is so proud of me," says Olivia.

I wanted a good, hands-on trade that would support me for life.

Olivia says she is “progressing well” at Combined Electrical and is treated “as just one of the guys”.

“I like that,” she says. “I don’t want to be treated like some fragile little thing.”

How to make the most of learning opportunities

Stacey and Olivia are female electricians forging a career in a male-dominated industry

Looking back on the training period of the program, Olivia says it was important to work as a team. “The course work at CDU VET was excellent.  Although I struggled with some of the work, we all worked together and supported each other.”

Both Stacey and Olivia praise GTNT’s management and mentoring support services – they say their mentor is always there for them.

Mark Eaves, Operations Managers at Combined Electrical, which hired Stacey and Olivia as apprentices, believes the industry also plays its part. He says the company strongly believes in providing opportunities for apprentices and that “these opportunities should be open to everyone.”

Stacey and Olivia's presence in our workforce has brought about a subtle but noticeable shift in culture.

“Stacey and Olivia have integrated into the workforce and have supplemented our pool of apprentices well,” says Mark. “They have provided great support to the workforce and the individual electricians they’ve worked with.

“I think the positive response to Stacey and Olivia joining the team is testament to our company culture and the individuals we employ. Their presence in our workforce has brought about a subtle but noticeable shift in culture, probably best described as a slightly more considered approach among our trade staff workforce.”

Making it work for women

The head of CDU VET’s School of Trades, Roy Brandner, says the number of women entering into traditionally male-dominated trades is on the rise.

"It’s about breaking down barriers,” Roy says. “It gives women responsibility for shaping the Territory’s future."

It’s about breaking down barriers. It gives women responsibility for shaping the Territory’s future. 

GTNT has run a string of highly successful tailored trade training programs – but Power Careers is the first all-female electrical initiative.

Employment Services Manager, Amelia Seipel, says the success of the program is due to the commitment and involvement from local businesses who continue to employ the Power Careers apprentices.

Mrs Seipel says another key factor to the success of this program is the high-quality and flexible delivery model provided by CDU VET. The model has produced 14 female electrical apprentices whose skills are more advanced than standard first-year electrical apprentices.

The model has produced 14 female electrical apprentices whose skills are more advanced than standard first-year electrical apprentices.

Training was led by electrician and lecturer Sarah Brunton at CDU VET’s School of Trades.

The Power Careers apprentices will become fully-qualified electricians in the next three-four years.

Ready to embark on your career in trades? Talk to CDU VET's Trades team about your options. 

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This article has been adapted from a story originally published in Territory Q and has been re-published with permission from GTNT.

This article appears in:
Future and Focus, Changing Careers, Vocational Education and Training, Trades

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