Chelsie Webster - Transgrid Pre-Apprenticeship Program for Women
Pre-apprenticeship Program

Transform Your Future with Pre-Apprenticeship Course for Women

17 November 2021

Transgrid has launched a pre-apprenticeship program in electrical trades for women aged from 16 years, in conjunction with Belmont TAFE. The seven week course covers three subjects that can be used as a credit towards a Certificate III in Electrotechnology – Electrician.

Currently, women represent only one percent of the trades workforce in construction or engineering while at Transgrid, women comprise a third of our apprentice pool. Although this is much better than the industry standard, we want to do more in terms of enabling a more diverse workplace.

One way to do this is by providing educational opportunities for women who want a trades career, which is why our senior leadership team were excited when Substation Technician Chelsie Webster first suggested to Transgrid’s Diversity and Inclusion Council that we run a pre-apprenticeship program just for women.

It was a pathway that Chelsie knew well; she had completed a pre-apprenticeship before becoming an apprentice at Transgrid in 2016.  We had a chat to Chelsie to learn more around why she believes more women should consider a trades career, and why a pre-apprenticeship is a good first step.

Chelsie, why did you do a pre-apprenticeship?

I had been unsuccessful for two years in a row, applying for at least 20 apprenticeships. I nearly gave up, but then I asked myself what I could do to make myself more desirable to employers. I enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship in Electrotechnology through Port Macquarie TAFE, which gave me a cert II in Electrotechnology. I put myself through my NSW white card licence which allowed me to work on construction sites in NSW. This gave me an edge as apprentices need this to work on a construction site. I was keen to try it all out, not just to make sure it was for me, but also to show employers that I was genuine about pursuing this career.

What benefit does a pre-apprenticeship course offer?

It gives a glimpse of what you will be doing on the job, enough for you to decide whether you wish to pursue it, or not. It also provides a competitive edge against other applicants.

Did you have any barriers in considering becoming a tradesperson?

Only mental barriers. As everything was so new to me, I had barely picked up a hand tool in my life and I lacked confidence in my own ability. I also considered that there would be physical barriers such as strength, in that I am not as strong as a man. It’s important to remember that help is always available if you ask for it.

What was the lightbulb moment for you in seeing that Transgrid should offer a pre-apprenticeship program for women?

As I had done a pre-apprenticeship myself, I knew firsthand the valuable experience gained from completing one. I saw another pre-apprenticeship program for women and I thought it was a great idea for Transgrid.

How long did it take to become a reality?

COVID-19 delayed the program for a year. But women can apply today!

The program is being offered in the Newcastle region as this opens up a large catchment of talent. Participants can come from Lake Macquarie, the Central Coast and the Hunter Valley. The Newcastle area also has more employment opportunities for program participants.

What would you like the program to achieve?

I would ultimately like to see every female that successfully completes the program, and wants to continue, gain an apprenticeship with an inclusive employer.

The program is for women aged from 16 years. Is there an upper age?

No. Transgrid employs apprentices of all ages. Our youngest female is in her first year, and is 18. We also currently have two older female apprentices; one is 39 and one is 43. I was 22 when I started.

What would you say to 16-year-old woman considering the pre-apprenticeship program?

It is the best thing you can do for your future.

If you decide it is right for you, a trade will set you up for life. You learn on the job, you are paid full-time to learn and your employer pays for your TAFE. On completion of an apprenticeship, you will be fully qualified, with no education debt. It’s a viable alternative to university for many women.

What would you say to a woman considering the pre-apprenticeship program as a second career pathway?

It is a great time in your life to learn new skills and take on new opportunities. I know how daunting a complete change in career can be. But if you are motivated and have a great attitude and are willing to learn, your fellow tradespeople will be patient with you and teach you everything you need to know.

Who should apply?

Anybody who is keen to become an electrician. The best natural talents would be someone who enjoys problem solving and working with their hands or who is a practical learner.

Why is becoming a tradesperson a good career choice for a woman?

It is a secure career path for your future and it is so empowering! You learn to do things you may not have known you were capable of doing.

What would you like to say to a woman considering applying for the program? Why should they get involved?

It will give you a solid leg up if you are truly passionate about gaining an apprenticeship in the electrical industry. I would say to any woman that you just need to have a go. I know how it feels and it is very daunting to try something completely new. But you will never regret learning new skills and opening yourself up to new opportunities.