Published: Jan 24, 2023
When 17-year-old Abbey Butler left school in Year 10, she wanted to pursue something out of her comfort zone. She was interested in trade industries but was hesitant to put herself forward for an apprenticeship.
“I thought of it as a bit of man’s world, somewhere I may not fit in,” she said.
Wanting to get out into the workforce, Abbey decided to try her hand at retail, working at a chain store in her hometown of Tamworth in North West NSW. While she persevered in the role, she quickly realised it wasn’t for her.
Abbey’s mum, Kerrie, could also see that the retail job wasn’t the right fit for Abbey. When she found an ad for an electrical apprenticeship with locally based Connected Electrical & Air Conditioning, she encouraged Abbey to go for it.
“So, I applied,” Abbey said, “Gave it a good crack and loved it!”
This was the moment Abbey realised what she was made for – a career as an electrician.
After Abbey’s three-month probation, she signed up for an ongoing electrical apprenticeship with the help of not-for-profit organisation VERTO.
Branch Manager for Connected Electrical & Air Conditioning Sarah Jones said Abbey was hardworking and showed a lot of aptitude for the job in the first three months with the company.
“I was delighted to offer Abbey an apprenticeship. I could tell she was a natural and was very committed to learning the trade,” she said..
“Abbey has quickly become the go-to apprentice for the tradies onsite thanks to her dedication and can-do attitude.”
And as for fitting in a space she previously thought of as a “man’s world”, Abbey said it was far easier than she initially imagined, due to a welcoming and supportive environment.
“I felt part of the team from day one. It doesn’t matter that I’m a woman - everyone just sees me as the new kid on the block. The team is very supportive, and my colleagues are happy to answer all my questions,” Abbey said.
“I naturally gravitated towards another female team member who has become my mentor. Having another woman in the team offers a great sounding board and support.
“We even wear pink on Fridays: Tradies Support the Ladies. We do this to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation where we all wear pink high-vis,” Abbey said.
Sarah Jones said Connected Electrical and Air Conditioning value all their employees and believe that everyone has something to offer the trade.
“Women bring a different aspect to the industry. They have an analytical mindset and can problem solve. They also have excellent time management skills, a skillset that is highly valued in the electrical industry,” she said.
VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said the ‘man’s world’ perceptions still lingered around many traditional trades, but acknowledged that social views were slowly changing.
“We are seeing more young women like Abbey forge successful careers in traditional trade industries and it’s something we want to encourage more women to consider,” 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 Abbey’s shoes should have the opportunity and support to do this and it’s something we’re passionate about at VERTO.”
Abbey hopes that by sharing her story, she inspires the next generation of women to consider a career in the trades.
“I love the maths element of the job. It was my favourite subject at school so it’s great to use it at work. And every day I learn something new – it’s awesome,” Abbey said.
“Doing an electrical apprenticeship has been a wonderful experience for me. The fact I am a woman has made no difference in getting an apprenticeship or the work I do. It’s just about doing the best job I can.
“For any girls out there thinking about an apprenticeship, I say: just do it!”
VERTO is a community owned, 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 over 60 locations across the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria. For more information, visit verto.org.au.