Leah sparks life into her career
Interacting with an electrician at the holiday park she was managing flicked a switch inside Leah O'Connor and convinced her to become a sparky.
Twenty-eight-year-old Leah isn't afraid to give new things a go.
"I am a mature age apprentice. I’ve had a lot of different experiences in life working on stations, in mustering, in boilermaking and in tourism. While managing a holiday park, I off-sided an electrician who was doing some refurbishment work. That experience got me interested in electrical work. I thought it was cool and I decided that I wanted to give it a go."
Leah lives on the Atherton Tablelands and travels to complete block training at the Cairns campus.
"TAFE Queensland has been fantastic for me. Going into the industry with no knowledge at all and then coming out of the first block alone, I went, 'Oh, okay, things are starting to make a little bit more sense'."
"The TAFE Queensland teachers are fantastic. They've got lots of experience because they've all come from different backgrounds and they're always willing to help you."
"When we come to TAFE Queensland, we learn the underlying fundamental principles of everything to do with electricity and that becomes key in things like fault-finding and learning why something isn't working."
"After each training block, I developed more confidence going back into my workplace because I was able to use what I learned at TAFE Queensland on job sites."
Leah said people shouldn't feel daunted about taking on an apprenticeship.
"I enjoy being an apprentice. People think there's stigma around it and that you're always at the bottom. But you've got to start somewhere and your employer and your teachers are there to build you up. At the end of your training, all of your hard work will be worthwhile."
Leah said her work was incredibly rewarding.
"There is a lot of variety in my job, it's different every day. I could be installing new fans or putting in power-points or going into a packing shed and problem-solving why the conveyor belt isn't working."
"I really do enjoy problem-solving, because when you're on the other side of it and you have found that problem and you've made your client or your customer happy, that's the most satisfying part of the day."
Leah said the possibilities are endless for qualified electricians.
"What I like most about working in my industry is it's challenging. I enjoy the challenge, but not only that it's very diverse. Even though you come out on the other side as an electrician, you can branch off into many different avenues, whether that be mining or instrumentation, you can even go and get your refrigeration ticket as well."
"I think the electrical industry is a very exciting and progressive industry, particularly when it comes to energy efficiency and smart households. I also think in the current work environment trade skills are important and trade experience will allow you to find work wherever you go."
Trade skills are in demand. JobOutlook predicts strong job growth for electricians to 2025. Research also shows that women make up just 2 per cent of the electrical industry's national workforce.
Leah hopes more women see how rewarding a career as an electrician can be and join the profession.
"If you're keen, go out the door, go and meet your new potential boss or your employer. Meet with them, hand your resume over directly. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. There's always going to be support along the way, whether it's your friends, your family, or the people you meet at TAFE Queensland. If you are willing and you are keen to become an apprentice, go out there and do it. It will be the best thing you've done."