We'll have what she's having - free training and a motivated mindset
Within one minute of speaking with Rachael Douglas, you’ll realise she’s ‘got’ something incredibly special. Articulate, socially skilled, academic and a volunteer to several causes, this ‘wise beyond her years’ TAFE Queensland electrotechnology apprentice is going places.
Rachael is currently using the ‘Free apprenticeships for Under 25s’ funding for her Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electirican (UEE30811) qualification and has custom designed a varied yet strategic pathway to building a lifelong trade career to this point – whilst also undertaking a Bachelor of Applied Management (BSMAN / VM5).
“Earlier on I thought I wanted to become a dentist – I would have the school marks to do so, but I eventually realised it was the status I was seeking, not the career. As it happened, I experienced significant ill health in grade eleven, and rather than repeat the year (due to absence), I chose perhaps the bolder option of leaving school to seek full-time employment. A different pathway to get into uni,” Rachael explained.
“This saw me work in several office-based roles, however after 6-12 months at each workplace, despite progressing upwards and taking on more responsibility at each job, I had ‘itchy feet’ and felt unfulfilled. One fateful afternoon I saw a lady at the shops in high-vis Energex gear, and everything just clicked," she said.
"I had ALWAYS had an interest in electrotechnology – in fact when I was eight, I distinctly remember being in the bathroom, and contemplating how a light switch was ‘engineered’ to produce the light above."
"Also, thinking back – I competed in all the science fairs and did passion projects throughout my schooling – and every time it involved solar electrical.”
Following this revolution or ‘lightbulb moment’, Rachael completed pre-vocational training, and then enrolled in the electrotechnology course at TAFE Queensland. During this period, she also obtained a trades assistant role with a switchboard manufacturing company, then as an official apprentice with her local electrician.
“I really just blossomed there – I learnt, was on the tools, and was so, so happy,” Rachael said.
Now in her third year of the qualification, and employed by RTL trades, Rachael completes her apprentice training at TAFE Queensland Eagle Farm, during block sessions, several times per year.
"I’ve observed that the teachers – especially with the students who were struggling with the math and science components at the beginning – would stay back and ensure that everyone was ‘getting it’. And now, that we’re closer to completing – it’s all really ramping up – the teachers are excellent – they’re so focused and serious about ensuring that we’re highly skilled and employable before we graduate,” she continued.
At 23 and close to finishing her apprenticeship, and university degree, Rachael is focused on buying her first home. She is also committed to her volunteer ambassador position with the National Association for Women in Construction, which sees her speaking with female grade 12 students to promote a trades career. And, once a week, Rachael, as a volunteer with The Pyjama Foundation visits a little boy in foster care to help him improve his literacy and numeracy.
Rachael has also been selected to participate in the ‘Top 100 Women’ (a partner of TAFE Queensland) online mentoring platform, for women in the construction field, which will see her receive mentorship from high achieving tradeswomen. This selection is well deserved given in 2020, she won the TAFE Queensland SkillsTech ‘Outstanding Apprentice of the Year’, and ‘Electrical Apprentice of the Year’.
“When I first started all of this, I was nervous about the apprenticeship, nervous about the physical side – being female in a traditionally-male industry. But the truth is – NO ONE cares about it (your sex and gender). They’re only focused on whether you work hard," she said.
"Further to this – I really want to encourage anyone who is academically-minded to pursue a trades career. The construction industry values, rewards, and needs analytical, skilled thinkers. Academic kids don’t always have to go to university – there is so much personal satisfaction, fulfilment and tangible accomplishments involved in a trade. And, you can do both – TAFE and uni, like I’m doing.:
“As to the future – I’m not going to focus on just one ‘dream job’. My plan is to continue taking on challenges in bite-sized chunks, and giving back,” Rachael finished.
Under 25 and want what Rachael’s ‘having’? You too could be training with TAFE Queensland for free or at low cost across a number of high priority training areas, including construction, electrotechnology, engineering, child care, nursing and health.