After spending a few years slogging through the 9-5 in unfulfilling office jobs, Sally Liddell decided to take matters, quite literally, into her own hands. And now, nine years after she first took a punt on a trades apprenticeship, her Melbourne-based company Right Connection Electrical is kicking goals state-wide.
I wish I started earlier!
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I got into the trades a little bit later, when I was 21 or 22. That’s when I started my apprenticeship. I’d been to uni and had office and call centre jobs, but hadn’t really found what I wanted to do. I thought it’d be good to get a trade behind me to open up my options for the future. I started my business three years ago and we’ve been super busy since then.
My uncle inspired me
He was an electrician and he moved into property development, so I saw it as an opportunity to do a trade and then, if I didn’t love it, move into different things. I’ve always wanted to run my own business, but the jobs and the courses I’d done before getting into trades didn’t really allow for that. That was one of the motivating factors for me to do a trade, to open up those opportunities.
There are still a few outdated opinions
I did find it difficult to get an apprenticeship in the first place. Generally speaking, it’s the older tradies who don’t feel the construction site is a place for a female. I think a big barrier for a lot of employers is that they think there are more issues to consider when having females on the site – like separate toilets and all of that – and I think that can put them off. I’ve only been on one site that had two toilets, everywhere else I had to share with the guys!
I thought it’d be good to get a trade behind me to open up my options for the future.
The situation is slowly improving for women in the trades
I think it’s hardest for the mature age females who want to get into a trade. Employers have to pay them more, and they’re getting more life experience, sure, but not necessarily more experience in a trade. It’d be great if there were more government incentives for mature age apprentices, and more quotas generally to help more women get into the trades.
The best advice I have?
Just persistence. It’s often a good idea to try and apply with the bigger companies as well. They have quotas and things they need to meet in terms of [gender equality] ratios and things like that. I’d recommended doing a pre-apprenticeship, too. It gives you a taste of the trades and you can see if it’s something you’re going to be interested in or not. Then you can go in and at least know how to strip cables or something, as opposed to going in and having to learn everything from scratch on the first day!
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