Apprentice to teacher: a career path for women in non-traditional trades

Bianca has been on the tools since she was a child, helping her dad out in the workshop with his cabinet-making business. When the family’s love of drag racing sparked an interest in cars, a family friend suggested a career in diesel mechanics, and after completing work experience at a local mining company Bianca never looked back.

Bianca’s apprenticeship experience as a woman in a non-traditional trade started eleven years ago. Bianca was the only woman on the workshop floor for most of her time there. She completed an apprenticeship in heavy diesel mechanics and said of the experience, “I gained a bunch of older brothers where we all looked out for each other. Once they knew I was serious and there to pull my weight, I earned their respect.”

The apprenticeship provided the perfect setting for Bianca to develop communication skills that have empowered her to be open and honest with colleagues and an opportunity to nurture a work ethic based on pulling her weight as part of a team.

“It took a bit longer to earn the respect of the older generation, but when you go above and beyond in this job and always ask when you do not know something, you get respect and help you need. We may not be physically strong as men, but with equipment and tooling, there are ways around it. In saying that though, with today’s guidelines, no man or woman are lifting those heavy weights anymore.”

Life after an apprenticeship

Transitioning to a trade after an apprenticeship “can be smooth if you stay with the same company”, but Bianca took a leap of faith and opted to do a couple of years of FIFO.

“You learn the most in those first few years after your apprenticeship, and for me, FIFO was the next step for me. It was not family-friendly for me, and I didn’t want to do it long term, but it’s a really rewarding way to learn your trade.”

Bianca loves rebuilding components, so when she came home, she worked in a component rebuild workshop for the next couple of years. With her future in mind, she aimed to progress further in the industry and set her sights on becoming a Component Maintenance Planner. After spending three years as Macmahon WAC Workshop components planner she became a mum in 2022.

Women’s experience in non-traditional trades

“I knew that the logistics of working on the tools in mining would be difficult when my partner and I started a family, it is one of the reasons why I started looking at where I could go in my career and helped solidify my move to the new role of component planning.

The move paid off because it’s a great step for career development. Having her trade behind her really helped with achieving her goals and meeting the requirements and challenges faced as a Planner. When Bianca was set to come back to work after having her baby, she made the choice to not go back to her full-time role. With the support of her employer Macmahon, a role was “created where I can work casually two days a week, still see my team, and learn the full range of skills to cover absences and annual leave, instead of specialising in one area.”

Bianca was asked what advice she’d give women considering a career in a non-traditional trade, Bianca says, “Don’t be discouraged because you’re in the minority. If it’s your passion, just go for it. Having thick skin is needed in any industry but understand your boundaries, have them respected and speak up if that line gets crossed. Be aware that the mining industry although very large has a small group of people within so reputation travels fast. Strive for what you want, work hard, and go get it.”

For women in non-traditional trades preparing for motherhood, Bianca offers, “It’s literally the best time of your life, but it’s important to have an employer that backs you when you have a child. You’ll be stressed and sleep deprived but it is so worth it, and with the right employer, as I have with Macmahon, they will support you through it all.”

Where will your apprenticeship take you?

For Bianca, following her dream of being a diesel mechanic has led her on a fulfilling journey of empowerment and life lessons that has taken her from the workshop floor to Maintenance Planning and now the newest chapter of motherhood. The options and opportunities are endless if you only take that first step.

Contact The Apprenticeship Community today and find out where the career of your dreams could take you.

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