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Fully charged with enthusiasm for electrical mine work

Emily Bowden is training to become an electrician and she's encouraging more women to pursue the trade.

The 25-year-old changed careers and relocated from the Atherton Tablelands to pursue her trade.

"I was in real estate for a while but my brothers moved to Weipa doing fitter and turner apprenticeships and really set themselves up and found their groove," Emily said.

"Based on their experience, I moved up to Weipa to apply for an electrical apprenticeship. I was successful in getting a role at Rio Tinto and it's been going well."

Emily said she enjoys being exposed to a range of work opportunities.

"Our shifts are 12-hour shifts and our daily jobs range from weekly or monthly inspections, fault finding, electrical upgrades and breakdowns, just to name a few."

"A bonus of working at the mine is that we are rotated every six months to a different location to gain different experiences. Within the past 18 months I’ve worked at three different plants and at the electrical workshop," Emily continued.

"We don’t do a lot of domestic jobs, so to ensure we’re across those tasks, we get an additional external rotation to a company where we can gain those skills too. I really love the opportunity to experience many different work locations."

Electricians are among the highest paid tradies in Australia and the industry has remained strong during the uncertainty of COVID-19. Despite high earning potential and job security, just two per cent of Australia's electricians are female.

Emily hopes more women consider a career in the electrical trade.

"It’s nice to see females in the workplace. There's a real push for more women to pursue a trade, there's no reason for women not to get into it."

"The mining industry is also really focused on creating a diverse working environment. As an electrical apprentice, I’ve worked with male and female tradies and we all get treated equally and fairly. I’m currently working under a female tradesperson and she’s one of the best tradies I’ve ever worked with."

Emily’s dedication to her apprenticeship and enthusiasm for more women to pursue a trade earned her the Female Trade Student of the Year title at the 2021 Cairns Trade Excellence Awards.

"Winning the award was very unexpected. It was a nice surprise. My parents travelled from Ravenshoe [to attend the award ceremony] and they’ve told me multiple times they’re very proud. All of my brothers went through apprenticeships and they’ve been lucky enough to get awards as well, so it was nice to carry on that tradition."

Emily attends block training for her apprenticeship at TAFE Queensland's Cairns campus, which has purpose-built electrical training workshops and a capstone testing facility.

"There is always a lot of content to learn. Our teachers understand this and really try to be thorough while putting it in a way that makes sense. The teachers I have had have all been great."

Emily is completing a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician (UEE30811) at no cost. She is accessing free apprenticeships for under 25s, a Queensland Government initiative which provides fully subsidised training across a range of priority apprenticeship or traineeship qualifications for those aged under 25.

Free training means Emily is able to bring more money home to spend on her other interests, like renovating her home in Weipa which she shares with her partner.

"Our house is great! We’ve done a few small renos since purchasing the property. We've done some landscaping and we repainted the interior and we plan on enclosing the laundry, doing two bathroom upgrades and expanding the shed."