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Breaking old stereotypes - Women on the worksite

Are you interested in pursuing a trade career? Hear from three female apprentices smashing stereotypes to master their trades.


Shelley Thrussell – CMI Toyota


Shelley Thrussell is a first-year automotive apprentice at CMI Toyota Adelaide. She worked in the automotive industry for years before deciding to pick up the hands-on mechanical skills.


“I chose to follow the automotive pathway because I had a lemon of a car and I didn’t know how to fix it,” she says.


“When I first learned how an engine worked, I would picture all the bits moving around in every car that would drive past.


“The thing I enjoy most about being a mechanic is when a car comes in with an issue, and it leaves without one because you’re able to source the problem.


“When it runs good again, it’s a really satisfying feeling.”


Shelley knew that the automotive industry is dominated by male employees, but any concerns were quickly put to rest.


“I was prepared for the worst really,” she says.


“But there’s quite a few females here and everyone’s really welcoming.


“They accept that if a girl is willing to do the job, why not let her?”


Marie Samarelli – SA Power Networks


Marie Samarelli tried out a few career paths before settling on an electrical apprenticeship. She finds it the perfect balance between study and practice.


“I get bored quite easily, but this trade gives me the challenge I need,” she says.


“I like that you get paid to study, with a good chance of getting a job at the end of it.”


However, this is not a career path she ever came across at school.


“My parents are very traditional,” she says.


“They thought that girls should go to university and boys should get a trade, so I never considered this pathway. But it suits me perfectly.


“Working in such a male-dominated industry can be overwhelming at times, but the guys are really good and just accept you.


“There’s a lot more females now as well.”


Kara Reynolds – JR Pumps


Kara Reynolds grew up helping out in her dad’s business. She grew sick of being the ‘lackey’ and decided to learn the trade herself through an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner.


“I’ve always been a trades assistant, and I wanted to actually understand the work that we were undertaking,” she says.


“I wanted to be the person that people go to, rather than the lackey.


“It’s so gratifying to be able to fix something with your hands.


“Even now outside of work I’m happy doing things around the house.


“I can fix things and build things and do my own car services.


“I never would have had the chance to learn those skills without my trade.”


Kara’s job requires a fair amount of strength, but she says being a female is in no way a barrier to success.


“It’s quite a physical trade and it does keep you very fit,” she says.


“If I can do it, anyone can do it really—I’m not that strong.


“When I was growing up I always thought of a tradie as a big, buff man who sits there with an iced coffee and cigarette in his hand, but that’s definitely not the case these days.


“If we [women] can do the work, why not have the trade?”


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