Skylar, 20, is proud of where she comes from.
"Boilermaking is in my blood, literally. For nearly 30 years my family has operated a successful business, Wright's Welding Operation. My grandparents started the business in 1993 and now both of them, along with my uncle, mother and a few other family members work there," Skylar said.
"I was raised in a boilermaking life and I guess that’s partly why I pursued it. It’s also something I found out fairly early on that I was good at doing. Not in an obnoxious kind of way, it’s just something I love with an absolute passion."
"Being able to be creative is what I love most about my job. The idea of building something from scratch, from just a basic drawing or even just using a bit of imagination is such an amazing feeling. Boilermaking isn’t just about throwing a weld here, using a grinder there and chucking a bit of steel wherever — it takes skill and creativity," she said.
Skylar started her career early by enrolling in a pre-apprenticeship course. She joined the TAFE at School program and completed a Certificate II in Engineering Pathways (MEM20413) alongside her Year 12 studies.
"From that moment on I knew I wanted to be a boilermaker. It’s hard and hot work, but really you can’t get anywhere in life without hard work."
After high school Skylar began her apprenticeship at the Mount Isa campus. She was able to access free apprenticeships for under 21s and enrolled in a Certificate III in Engineering - Fabrication Trade Boilermaking/Welding (MEM30305).
"I was never very good at traditional school, but I enjoyed TAFE a lot because it was a completely different environment. I enjoyed the challenging side of my training and the opportunity to learn new things — TAFE was really great for me," she said.
For Skylar, becoming a boilermaker came naturally and she hopes the future will bring more gender diversity to her trade. Australian Government data shows women represent just one per cent of the structural steel and welding trades workforce.
"I work my hardest to prove to everyone that I can do the same work a guy can do. I think it’s amazing seeing women in a male-dominated workforce because years ago it never happened. It's all thanks to those hard-working women before me who made it possible and overcame stereotypes so that today girls like me can do something they absolutely love," Skylar said.
"If there are any girls or women considering a boilermaking career my advice would be to never, ever give up. Make sure you work hard every day and never let someone say you can’t do it because you’re a woman. And last but not least, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty."
Skylar's dedication to her training and her enthusiasm for encouraging more women to become boilermakers earned her a 2020 Mount Isa Trade Excellence Award. Skylar said she was shocked and surprised when she was named the Female Trades Student of the Year.
"Receiving the award was a surreal and amazing experience. There were so many other women there that deserved it just as much as I did. It was an absolute honour just to be nominated, let alone win. I'm extremely proud that my skills and passion for women working in the trade industry was acknowledged," Skylar said.
Now a qualified boilermaker, Skylar hopes to continue her family's legacy.
"I think I would like to eventually take a business and management course so I can maybe one day run the family business and help it expand."