Can you shortly describe a typical day on the job?
A typical day would be to get to the site, scope out the plan for the day, and what we want to achieve for the day or the week, depending on the size of the job. I install solar panels on commercial sites, for example, factories or schools.
The days can vary a lot depending on whether we’ve started a new commercial project. On the other hand, I could be doing service with one of the many A graders we have and trying to find a specific problem with the solar system. As the project progresses, I could be wiring up a fuse board or helping an A grader with a commercial switchboard.
Why did you choose to start an electrical apprenticeship as your career path? What or who inspired you to do so?
After twenty years as a chef, I decided to change my career. My main criteria for my next job was to work outdoors and at heights; I know – strange, right? I initially wanted to be a linesman, but I wasn’t even sure if I’d have a job after the apprenticeship.
While doing my pre-app, one of the teachers approached me and asked if they could send my resume to RACV Solar as they are looking for a female apprentice. I thought: “Sure, I’ve got nothing to lose.”
A week later, I got a call from Grant, the General manager of operations at RACV Solar, offering to schedule an interview. Of course, I immediately said yes. The interview was a success, and I never looked back.
What also cemented my answer was when I met the CEO of RACV Solar, Andy. He was enthusiastic about the industry overall, especially about advocating for more women in the industry.
What three key personality aspects or skills make for an electrical apprentice?
- Strong communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Ability to focus
What’s been your best moment while doing your work?
There isn’t a single moment; I love this job because I feel I’m making a slight difference in climate change. Installing solar is the way of the future. We as a nation can produce cleaner energy and reduce our carbon emissions to combat climate change.
Because every little bit helps.
AND A DIFFICULT MOMENT?
I think the biggest challenge for women in solar is lifting the panels. They’re not exactly small; that’s why I think it puts a lot of women off the solar industry; it can be pretty physical. It took me a year or so to confidently lift the panels, especially the commercial ones, which are much bigger than the domestic ones, and I’m a small person. But the guys that I work with are great and have been very accommodating. A massive shoutout to the RACV Solar team; they’re always there to give me a hand if I can’t lift something.
How do you keep going when things get challenging?
Ask questions and ask for help. In most cases, people are delighted to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. We don’t have superpowers; we’re only human. You can only do so much; this is something I am still trying to learn.
Are there any surprising or odd things people wouldn’t expect if they picked this career?
It’s very dynamic and not repetitive at all! One day I could be learning how to measure a roof, wire a section of the roof or install a solar.
Can you share a funny or weird story about something you experienced in your role?
I still find it weird that if you asked me if I’d ever be in this position of being an apprentice and having a career change, especially doing my apprenticeship to become a sparky, I would say, “No way!”
I was sure I would never go down the electrical route because of all the maths involved. Maths was always my worst subject in high school, but look at me now, twenty years later.
This last year has been amazing! I went from deciding to have a career change to doing pre-app, getting a job, and even being on TV for a split second!
What advice would you give young people considering pursuing a career in this industry?
Just have a go, no matter what. I know this sounds cliché, but try it because that’s the only way to see whether you like it.
Don’t be put off by the size of the solar panels. There is a lot to learn in this industry, not just installing them, but you get to work on commercial switchboards and inverters, anywhere from a 5kw to 100kw inverter.
The industry is constantly changing, and technology is improving; it’s exciting to be in now.