Meet the apprentice dismantling engines – and stereotypes!

Female trade mechanic apprentice working

Claire worked in a wooden boat shop ‘way back’ and thoroughly enjoyed it but it would be years before they came back around to putting that experience and the skills they learned to good use as a mature age apprentice. Today Claire is studying for a Certificate III in Mobile Plant Technology and says, “this qualification equips me with knowledge of how engines operate and their relationship with systems like hydraulics, electrics, and pneumatics. I love that I get the opportunity to work on large scale mobile plant technology like drill rigs, dozers, and loaders in the mine site environment. This exposure will provide me with the skills and knowledge I need to diagnose faults and undertake repairs and servicing. Ultimately, I plan to complete a dual trade in auto electrics and be part of the breakdown team. It’s a trade that can take you globally too.”

A fork in the road on the career journey

Claire spent 12 years in the health industry as a Myotherapist working in clinical environments and loved providing sports massage to elite athletes. Once covid hit, they gave two years in the Australian police force, but didn’t see it as a long-term career option. Claire’s also a big believer in diversity of skills, so at 41 when it was time to plan a career change and they heard about the possibility of becoming a heavy diesel mechanic they decided to give it a go.

With opportunities for upskilling and career progression, Claire was impressed with the potential long-term prospects in the mining industry. At first they were offered a drill and blast gig (breaking rock for excavation purposes, using controlled explosives and gas pressure blasting pyrotechnics) – but they wanted to learn more than that.

After research that included company websites, and LinkedIn and other social media platforms to get an idea of management styles, workplace culture, innovation levels, and opportunities career progression, Claire landed on their current employer Ozmech.

They signed up through The Apprenticeship Community and now say of the experience, “it’s so much more than what I could ever have imagined, you just learn so much in the first year. I’m ready to go to site now and get started.”

The benefits and challenges of being a mature age apprentice

There are definite perks to being a mature age apprentice:

“More life experience and exposure allows me to confidently ask questions without holding back, and knowing what you want when you’re older means you’re more focused on committing yourself to each task.”

But there are challenges too, “the financial strain is intense so government funding is critical, I literally could not do this without it, and I appreciate The Apprenticeship Community’s help with that paperwork.”

As one of the only women on the workshop floor Claire “can’t wait to work alongside more women, I get my fix at TAFE but going on site will allow for more diversity.”

They advise other women considering or beginning an apprenticeship to, “find tradespeople who are doing the job right and are also willing to teach that. If not, keep going, keep asking questions, and keep showing that you’re interested and passionate about the job.”

Claire’s motivation comes from a desire to “diversify skills and always keep learning and growing” and if you’re looking into a mature age apprenticeship, they have this advice for you:

“If you’re thinking about it, you need to act on it. Ultimately there are no mistakes, only gains, so give yourself the opportunity. Yes it will be tough, but the experience outweighs that.”

How to get started on a mature age apprenticeship

Claire believes that doing thorough research is an important part of the process if you want to set yourself up for success. Their top tips include:

“Research companies to see what’s the right fit for you. Look at online tutorials to see what type of work really interests and excites you, and then you know that path has potential. Talk to experienced tradespeople across multiple trades and find out what tools to save for, what their day looks like, and what books they’ve read.

Ask to go into a workshop so you can get a feel for the environment, and attend industry events if you can. I went to an Apprenticeship Community ‘women in trades’ night and it was great to actually see inside a workshop.”

For Claire, the research paid off. They say of their time at Ozmech as a mature age apprentice, “it’s a really welcoming environment, I feel supported by my senior tradespeople, and the experience has given me good foundational awareness of using correct tooling equipment, the ability to understand a methodical approach to a task, and the chance to diversify my skills while enjoying being in a busy team environment.”

If you’re ready to show the world, and yourself, that it’s never too late to make a change and start out on a new path, Contact The Apprenticeship Community today and find out how we can support you.


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