Emma McDonald

Trade - Electrician and open licensed Communications technician

Age I entered the trade

I started my apprenticeship at 33 years old!

When I left school, it was still quite hard for females to get in to non traditional roles, especially in Kalgoorlie, where I grew up. After I graduated I applied for every trade I could. I was turned down by all. Needing money I scored a job with the local supermarket... and I continued to work for that company for the next 15 years!

I eventually transferred to Perth and that opened up a whole new bunch of opportunities for me. While I was fairly successful with the company I was working for and I was promoted a few times, I never really enjoyed it.

So I quit!

And applied for an apprenticeship with EGT.

And the rest is, as they say, history.

What attracted me to my Trades?

The variety of work available. You can work in construction, as I do at the moment, or service or solar or in the mines or houses or instrumentation.... they even have underwater electricians.

What challenges did I face?

Perception. The assumption that females in male dominated industries are somehow disadvantaged or on the back foot. This is not true. We are just as capable as our male counterparts and I love proving it.

What kept me going?

The light at the end of the tunnel - My trade certificate. I waited 33 years for the opportunity and I wasn't about to waste it.

What makes me really proud?

My Independence. It was a happy side effect of the confidence that I gained during my apprenticeship. When you undertake an apprenticeship in a predominately male trade, you don't just learn solely about that specific trade. You also learn bits of others as well.

The skills you gain from using different power tools for example, you can use that everywhere. Last weekend I built a deck in my back yard and I am no carpenter. Next week I'm paving a footpath, and I'm no bricky.
I can fix and build all kinds of things now.

What do I believe the benefits of working in a trade are as opposed to more traditional employment?

Same as above, the growing confidence in yourself knowing that you can do anything you put your mind to. You don't need to rely on anyone, you are capable.

Employability and earning potential at the end is great. You can take your trade qualifications overseas to other countries. The sky is the limit.

What do I love most about my trade?

I love the variety of work. I love the creativity. And I love the different types of people I meet.

What triumphs have I had?

In 2015 I won the GTA award for my state. The award takes in to consideration applicants from all different trades across WA, not just my own. It was a privilege just to make the finals let alone win.

In 2016 I won the NECA WA apprentice of the year award and came runner up in the NECA National awards. To place 2nd in the whole of Australia is pretty special.

I was also asked to Volunteer as an ambassador for The Department of Education and Training in 2016. I really enjoy doing this.

Being offered employment with my host employer after completing my apprenticeship was also a win in my eyes.

What do I do in my spare time? 

When I'm not working on my house, I volunteer for a not for profit pet rescue group. For fun I like going to live shows and pretending I know how to play guitar.

I also study. Sometimes trade related, most of the time just for fun. I have a cert 5 in fitness and half a diploma in photography but right now I'm teaching myself German and next I might have a crack at making cheese......

Emma McDonald Australian Apprenticeship Ambassador