Emma McDonald wanted to work in telecommunications like her father, a telecom technician. But 18 years ago that still proved very hard for a woman so instead, Emma went into retail.
14 years later, despite a successful career, she knew it wasn’t what she wanted. While searching the web for inspiration, Emma found the Electrical Group Training (EGT) website encouraging people, especially mature age and female, to apply for a pre-apprenticeship in Data and Communications. She quit her job, applied, and was accepted.
“It was challenging to go back to school and learn new skills. With very rusty maths, I struggled through those units compared with the apprentices who came fresh from school, but I got there.”
Emma’s been involved in projects ranging from upgrading the WA Police communications systems to working at the NIB stadium and building a new school. Working in the service crew of her host employer, Team Electrical, gave her a new experience almost every day, which she says was a great for an apprentice. “My tradie says I was the best apprentice he’s ever had … and I think he means it!” says Emma.
After completing her Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician in 2016, Emma is now employed by her host employer, Team Electrical.
For other females entering her industry, Emma advises, “There’ll be the odd, difficult person, just like everywhere. Dealing effectively with them is a life skill you need. Otherwise, work as hard as everyone else, be an equal member of the team, and you’ll be fine.”
More generally, for anyone who’s worried they’re too old or the wrong gender for an apprenticeship, or it will be too hard, Emma’s advice is, “Go for it. I’m living proof that you can do it!”
In 2016, Emma won the NECA WA 4th Year Commercial/Domestic Apprentice Award and was runner-up at the NECA National Award, Apprentice Awards Commercial/Domestic. Additionally, Emma won the Apprentice of the Year award at the 2015 WA Group Training Australia Awards of Excellence. In the same year she was awarded a place in Group Training Australia’s Today’s Skills: Tomorrow’s Leaders program and was appointed an Australian Apprenticeships Ambassador for the Australian Government.