Final year electrical apprentice, Carla Smith, cannot imagine spending her life sitting in an office behind a desk.
The 25-year-old from Helensburgh is working for trade services company, Glenco, and is one of many Australian women forging a successful career in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Women make up 11 per cent of the trade apprentices who qualified in the last five years, but there are slightly higher numbers of women commencing apprenticeships, sitting at 14 per cent, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
“I’m lucky that my dad is a lift engineer and my brother is an electrician, so I had exposure to the trades from a young age,” Carla said.
“I think that’s what influenced me to start an electrical apprenticeship.
“Maybe I got lucky but I’ve found a career that I really love. Being able to put my name to something at the end of the day, having a homeowner be happy with my work… it’s very rewarding.
“There were certainly areas of study that were challenging, particularly sitting in a class full of boys!
“But I think the key is knowing when to ask for help when you don’t understand something. My teachers were always willing to provide additional mentoring and support,” she said.
Carla is also supported by not-for-profit apprenticeships, employment and training provider, VERTO, who offer specialist assistance and ongoing mentorship for women undertaking apprenticeships in non-traditional trades.
Glenco’s Sales and Marketing Manager, Nicole Brooke, said Carla was hardworking and showed a lot of natural aptitude for the trade, making her a popular employee and colleague.
“We were delighted to offer Carla an apprenticeship. We could tell she was a natural and was very committed to learning the trade,” Nicole said.
“Carla has quickly become the go-to apprentice for the tradies onsite thanks to her dedication and can-do attitude.
“Our residential clients love Carla, and often ask for her again when they lodge electrical requests. I think they find comfort in having a female electrician come to the house,” she said.
VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said that while the number of women in trade apprenticeships is slowly increasing, women are underrepresented in almost all traditional trade occupations.
“Representation and exposure to trades is so important in shifting perceptions and stereotypes and it’s wonderful to see more young women like Carla forge successful careers in traditional trade industries,” he said, pointing to the ground-breaking work of organisations like Tradeswomen Australia, SALT and Women in Trades.
“We’re proud to support these organisations in their mission to help more women succeed in trades. Every young person in Carla’s shoes should have the opportunity and support to undertake any apprenticeship they likes and it’s something we’re very passionate about at VERTO.”
Carla hopes that by sharing her story, she inspires the next generation of women to consider a career in trades.
“If you’re scared or unsure about doing a trade apprenticeship… just go for it,” she said.
“If it’s something you’re considering, give it a go and see if you like it. There’s so much support available to help you succeed.
“And don’t worry about the stereotypes. The industry has come a long way, and you’ll find that most workplaces are really accommodating of female tradies,” Carla said.
If you are a female considering a trade, VERTO offers specialist assistance and ongoing mentorship. For more information, visit www.verto.org.au or phone 1300 483 786.
VERTO is a not-for-profit organisation delivering a range of apprenticeship, community support, employment and training services to assist individuals, employers and industries. We can be found in more than 65 locations across New South Wales. For more information, visit www.verto.org.au.