Louise Azzopardi has always had an inquisitive nature and loves discovering how things work. It is how she has got to where she is today, as a national gold medalist at the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Competition, and a member of the squad team where she represented Australia in Heavy Vehicle Mechanics in Abu Dhabi in October 2017.
It was Louise’s experiences growing up on the family farm that sowed the seeds of her success.
“I’ve always loved working with my hands, diagnosing problems and making things,” Louise said
“On the farm I loved getting my hands dirty, riding bikes and fixing them up. Initially I wanted to be a motor bike mechanic but when I gave it some serious thought I realised there isn’t a lot of money in it because so many people do their own bike maintenance.”
It was a chance meeting with a Heavy Vehicle Apprentice at an Apprenticeship Expo that set Louise on the path to her dream career.
“I did a week’s work experience at the diesel engine manufacturer, Cummins South Pacific, and loved it. I was like a kid in an oversized toy shop—the machines were so big and fascinating. I applied for a job there and after finishing my Year 10 started work.”
Louise went on to study at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney through her employer, the Tractor Shop. “I lived my apprenticeship for four years and finishing it has been my greatest achievement.
“But of course there were challenges along the way. For a while I really struggled. As a woman in a male dominated field I was letting it get the better of me, but then another woman who had been in the trade for 10 years started working with me. She made a huge difference. I really admired her strength and pride in her work and she helped me get through a tough couple of months.”
Now Louise wants to pay that experience forward, as a role model for women who wish to enter trades, or to just gain some self-sufficiency in undertaking a range of mechanical or automotive tasks. She is an active member of SALT (supporting and linking tradeswomen), a group of women who meet in Quakers Hill, NSW, to teach women of all ages and backgrounds how to use tools to build skills, and how to change a tyre.
Louise also runs basic car servicing workshops for girl guides, who have never held a spanner or inflated a tyre.
“I am keen to be an ambassador for women who want to enter trades, and be a role model to grow those numbers exponentially. I want to exemplify that gender doesn’t have to make a difference or hold you back from doing something you love.
“My advice to anyone who’s thinking of doing an apprenticeship is that it’s 110 per cent worth it. At some points it’s not going to be easy but you’ll get through it. The more effort you put in, questions you ask, opportunities you seize and risks you take will determine what kind of tradesperson emerges at the end. The outcome for me is doing what I love and doing it well.”