Halfway through her training and about to start her third year in her apprenticeship to become an electrician, Rachel needed to find another employer so she could earn and learn on the job while completing her trade qualification.
A member of the BUSY Sisters program, which offers mentoring support and a connected community for females entering or working in male-dominated trade careers, Rachel reached out to her BUSY Sisters mentor, Billie-Jo, to see how she could find another employer to take her on.
Billie-Jo reached out to BUSY At Work’s Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) team who soon found Rachel an amazing opportunity to continue her apprenticeship with Watmar Electrical, a Gold Coast electrical company specialising in commercial and residential installations. Watmar is led and managed by female electrician, Sharyn Watson.
Rachel is passionate about pursuing her career as an electrician and her eagerness to continue learning and expand her skills-set impressed Sharyn who quickly employed her with the company. Rachael was ecstatic to not only be able to continue her apprenticeship, but to be mentored by another female in the industry.
“Working with Sharyn at Watmar, for the first time in my apprenticeship I have a woman teacher! She’s awesome, the first one that’s sat me down to talk woman to woman, she understands the things we need.”
Before starting her trade as an electrician, Rachel worked in the beauty industry.
“I met a friend through my partner, and she was a qualified painter. At the time I wasn’t really fitting into the normal ‘girl world’ as you would call it. I came from beauty therapy and I just felt out of place, not girly enough or something. This girl encouraged me to give it a go, asking me what are you scared of? My initial response was that, well it’s a man’s world and there’s not that many of us. But she said, you know what, all the men I’ve met, they’re sweet, it’s just that 2% you get in any workplace.
“I’ve been to a few job sites and all the young boys say we need more females in this trade. They look after things better, they clean up better, they have an eye for detail – we need more females! A lot of the customers I go to as well, they think it’s fantastic too!”
It is well known that diversity in the workplace brings a more balanced dynamic and this is something Rachel agrees with. In her time in the beauty industry, which is highly female dominated, there were only women to talk to and she believes male dominated industries embrace the diversity of having women in the workplace too.
“Men are way funnier – and there’s no stabbing in the back. The have no filter, say what it is and how it is. You can learn from whatever they say, it’s honest and upfront.”
Of course, working in a male-dominated trade presents challenges as well and Rachel has experienced this.
“I feel, in the past, I have been looked down upon for my abilities, plus sometimes men don’t seem to think about what women need, especially male bosses. I had one instance where I went away to a job site and had to stay in an apartment. I didn’t find out until I got there that I was staying with three guys that I didn’t know. I wasn’t comfortable with that so, yes, just being aware that you have a female and that they may have different needs.”
Like many other women in trades, Rachel has discovered that she has adapted physically, gaining the strength needed to perform her role.
“Some people in the workplace also underestimate the strength I can bring too. Going into this job I knew I would have to lift heavy things. Like taking off a 7 kilowatt air-conditioning unit, it’s quite heavy but I’m going to have to learn how to handle them – it’s going to be me one day doing that by myself!”
In good hands, Rachel is set to excel in her trade career as an electrician. With two years left to become qualified, her goal is to then get her contractors licence and potentially start her own company. Through Sharyn at Watmar, Rachel is not only learning the trade, but she is also learning how to be a great manager so that one day down the track, Rachel can pass on the baton and potentially mentor another female wanting to enter the trade.
“I say to women looking to enter the trade – just do it! The only thing holding you back is listening to outside noise. If this is something you really want to do, I promise you’ll succeed – just block that outside noise!
“BUSY Sisters are gorgeous girls and I don’t think I could have done it without them to be honest. I may have just stopped my apprenticeship for a bit but they really listened, heard me and gave me great advice to get back up and keep going. I really appreciate them all!”
Learn more about BUSY At Work’s support for women entering non-traditional trades.
Learn more about BUSY Sisters mentoring program for females entering or working in male-dominated trades.
Rachel (L) is in her third year as an apprentice electrician. Pictured with Sharyn, a qualified electrician and manager at Watmar Electrical.