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Keeping her cool to break the mould

In a traditionally male-dominated industry where females make up only one per cent of the workforce, Katie Hammill-Lovett is proud to be breaking the mould as she begins her trade career in refrigeration and air conditioning with renowned Australian employer, Woolworths Group.

Nineteen-year-old Katie is one of just fifteen people in Australia to secure an apprenticeship with Woolworths Group in the past year and is one of only four female apprentices to be selected from nearly 500 applicants.

After six short months Katie is now thriving in her new trade career and said that her experience so far at Woolworths has been amazing.

“When I started I didn’t even know any other female tradies, so I had no idea what it was going to be like stepping into a traditionally male-dominated industry,” Katie said.

“Going into it was a bit stressful at first, but I’m being supported so much and learning new things all of the time — every single day is different.”

“The tradesmen I work with don’t care about gender at all, they just want me to get in there and have a go. They just want to pass on their knowledge and teach me the skills they’ve learned over the years. They think having a female on the team is awesome,” she said.

Like many others her age, Katie was unsure what career path to pursue after finishing high school. With a trade-qualified older brother, Katie’s mum recognised similar skills in Katie and encouraged her to look into a trade career.

After Katie researched what trade pathways were available she decided to enrol into a Certificate II in Electrotechnology (Career Start) (UEE22011) at TAFE Queensland. The course not only gave her greater insight into the industry, but most importantly it gave her the foundation skills she needed to start applying for apprenticeships.

“I’d been looking into a range of different jobs and thought I might be suited for a trade career. I didn't even think about refrigeration until I studied the certificate II. All the guys in my class were studying refrigeration and I was like, what is this trade?" Katie said.

“I talked to my teacher about it, looked at the refrigeration and air conditioning facilities at TAFE, and here I am! I found it and I fell in love with it.”

“To be honest, I don't think I could have secured my apprenticeship without my TAFE training. It's the practical skills they teach you at TAFE; they really prepare you for an apprenticeship,” she said.

Katie found out about the apprenticeship openings at Woolworths Group through TAFE Queensland's Find your apprentice service and then jumped at the opportunity.

“This was my one shot and where I wanted to start. I thought this opportunity would be my first foot in the door,” said Katie.

Katie underwent an intensive recruitment process and was ecstatic to be offered a refrigeration and air conditioning apprenticeship within Woolworth’s Queensland Installation and Construction team.

Woolworths Group Apprenticeship Program Manager, Caroline Fitzgerald said that during the recruitment process one of Woolworths Group’s main aims was to have a gender-balanced number of shortlisted candidates.

“At Woolworths, we believe our customers should see in our people a reflection of themselves and their communities,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“We are committed to achieving gender equity — it’s one of our key 2025 goals to ensure we truly are an inclusive workplace.”

“We had gender-balanced interview panels and wanted a gender-balanced number of shortlisted candidates to progress to the final stage. All shortlisted candidates had to meet the stringent selection criteria to be considered for this opportunity,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“During the recruitment process, it wasn’t just one thing that made Katie stand out, but knowing that she had completed a certificate II was significant. The confidence and emerging technical skills she gained from her training definitely opened the door wider for her during the stages of recruitment,” she said.

Katie is now enjoying the variety of work that Woolworths Group is able to offer throughout her apprenticeship and is looking forward to her future with one of Australia’s largest employers — both on and off the tools.

Ms Fitzgerald said that once Katie completes her trade qualification there will be many opportunities available for her and other apprentices to progress further to take on more senior roles within the organisation.

“Katie will not be limited to being a refrigeration and air conditioning technician in the future, there is a whole raft of different career opportunities available within Woolworths. If she chooses to become a project manager or even the next state manager, the opportunities are there,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Katie is now looking forward to completing her apprenticeship and said she hopes to gain as much industry knowledge as possible.

“You never stop learning and I’m hoping to just absorb it all. After I become a tradeswoman I’d like to start running jobs and become a female leader out there for other aspiring female tradies,” Katie said.