TAFE Queensland third year electrical apprentice Amber Whitfield’s self-esteem has soared substantially since finding her passion within the trade world. “I’m proud to be who I am and how far I’ve gotten in my career path. I’m more outgoing than I was before I started and suffer less from anxiety whilst working. Since starting my trade I’ve felt more confident and have bigger goals,” explained Amber.
Amber remembers being fond of all-things electrical from primary school age, reflecting, “We once had a science class about electricity and batteries, and how we used them to power our home and our toys. From that point I was fascinated with electricity, how it worked and where it came from.” However, ‘circumstance’ would take her down a different path, but one that she soon corrected.
“In the early years of high school, I was asked if I’d be happy to sit out of ‘manual arts’, and instead do ‘physical education’ twice, as there weren’t enough spots. I didn’t think much of it, so I said that was fine. Later on I was in Year 11 when I first considered the trade pathway, however, I never felt I got the support or encouragement like I did discussing university. So I did the OP pathway, went straight to university and started a nursing degree after graduating. I knew straight away it wasn’t for me. I was bored, uninspired and had no passion. After a few weeks I dropped out of university and started a full-time job while I was still undecided on a career,” Amber said.
“When I was reviewing career options that didn’t involve sitting in a classroom for a few years, I decided to have a look at the trades. I was instantly drawn to electrical. I have two strong role models in my life who are both qualified electricians and have done exceptionally well in their careers, and, I had this need to learn more about electricity, and answer the questions I’d had since primary school.
“My grandfather is a retired electrician, and my stepdad is currently working as an electrician. They both have worked on oil rigs, coal mines. When I eventually started my apprenticeship, I never really compared commercial / domestic electrical to the work they did. However, I know that a part of me chose this career to follow in their footsteps,” explained Amber.
After initially securing a security technician apprenticeship, and really enjoying the electrical component, Amber switched over to an electrical apprenticeship and found her ‘spark’. Her host employer is Power Solutions, and her direct boss, Brodie Nesbitt, said he truly values having Amber on his team.
“Amber is extremely reliable, down to earth and a real stand out. From day one she made it pretty clear she was keen to learn and is a very hard worker. She is really passionate about females joining the construction industry, and she’s going to make an amazing electrician,” Brodie shared.
As to what Amber most enjoys; “I love being able to look back on the jobs I have completed and be proud – transforming a warehouse into a new office building or fitting out a new restaurant or shop. For example, we’ve completed a stunning light display of 150-plus large lanterns for Naga Thai restaurant on Eagle Street Pier. I’ve also worked on many well-known shops like JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys and done multi-level office fit-outs in the city for many big companies,” Amber said.
“My favourite part would be lighting, installing new pendant lights or extrusions. It can really make a space feel more homely. And lately, I’ve found joy in fitting off switchboards and testing,” continued Amber.
Amber is completing her apprenticeship training for free, by accessing the ‘Free TAFE for Under 25s’ funding, a Queensland Government initiative. She completes her training in block sessions at TAFE Queensland Bracken Ridge campus. “The teachers have been nothing but helpful at TAFE, I always feel supported and prepared for my exams. My favourite teacher is Alan – he’s an inspiring man with an extensive background in electrical, which rubs off on his students. He takes pride in his teaching and ensures everyone in the class understands the content we explore,” Amber offered. “And the money I’m saving (from the funding) – I’ve used it to buy tools for the trade and to put towards buying a bigger car to carry them in.”
Upon self-reflection, it’s no surprise to Amber that she is thriving in this qualification, having always enjoyed doing and observing ‘hands-on’ work. Amber explained, “I loved spending time with my granddad in his shed, making jewellery and fixing things, learning bits and pieces of what tools were for, and how to use them. My stepfather also taught me lots of things growing up, which prompted my interest in a trade career. He taught me how to fix my bike, mow the lawn and add oil to the mower, how to use basic hand tools and what a drill was. I loved watching him add new additions to the home, including air-conditioning, and extra power points around the place.”
Through TAFE Queensland Amber has also joined the ‘Top 100 Women in Construction’ online platform, and, has a lot of encouraging words for females considering a trade pathway. “There is no feeling like finishing your job and being able to say, ‘Yep, I did that’, ‘I made that work’ or ‘I built that’. One of the best things you’ll do is start an apprenticeship. Give it your best shot, learn as much as you can and enjoy every moment.”
As for her future plans Amber replied, “There are so many career paths I can take (after I become a qualified electrician). I’m hoping to stay on the tools for a few years before perhaps transitioning to a management role and then possibly completing an electrical engineering degree or builder’s licence. I would love to make my grandfather proud in how far I’ve progressed in my trade, and show the world how well us ladies can do.”
The Queensland Government’s ‘Free TAFE for Under 25s’ funding initiatives means training is more affordable than ever, with eligible Queenslanders now able to complete selected qualifications for free or low cost. ‘Free TAFE for under 25s’ is supporting eligible young workers up to the age of 25 to access fully subsidised training across a range of high priority training areas including construction, electrotechnology, engineering, childcare, nursing and health.