Recent graduate Emma Barrett’s decision to pursue a pathway in electrotechnology is a testament to the way PLC encourages students to be brave, encourages them to challenge the status quo, and equips them with skills not only for now but for the future.
Emma is now two weeks into her four-year electrical apprenticeship with Nilsen and has begun work on the new Skywalk at Optus Stadium.
“I am extremely excited and grateful to be working at Nilsen. I am so privileged to be learning from some amazing electricians who are cautious and passionate about their work,” Emma said.
Emma recently graduated from PLC Perth having completed her Certificate II in Electrotechnology through the Vocational Education and Training pathway (VET) and was awarded the DJ Carmichael & Company Vocational Education and Training Dux award at the 2021 Speech Night.
While Emma’s exceptional grades and her love of mathematics could have seen her achieving success in an ATAR pathway, she knew she didn’t want to go to university straight out of high school. Instead, she was brave enough to pursue a pathway that supported her hands-on style of learning and her passion for mathematics. She chose to pursue a field of interest to her regardless of it being a predominantly male-dominated industry.
When Emma was in Year 10, her mother took her to a careers expo in Perth and it was there that she had the opportunity to speak to professionals from mathematics-heavy industries such as civil construction, surveying, and aviation. After speaking with building industry professionals, Emma walked away feeling that becoming an electrician might be for her. With the support of Ms Fleay, Head of Careers and Pathways at PLC, Emma applied for a pre-apprenticeship with the College of Electrical Training. Emma attended both the College and her PLC classes and had to juggle the workload of both.
“At the time, I was studying ATAR Mathematics Methods and Mathematics Specialist, ATAR Accounting and English General and had to catch up the classes I missed each week, but all my teachers were extremely supportive and helped me to balance my study load,” Emma said.
Hailing from a farming background with strong female role models, entering a male-dominated industry and the challenges associated with that hadn’t been a consideration. Being one of only four girls in the entire college, Emma quickly became aware when lecturers would comment how easy she would find it in the industry because she was a girl and she was singled out and put on a pedestal just because she was female and high achieving.
“This made me very uncomfortable. I think they thought they were being supportive, but they were undermining a lot of hardworking male students. I want to achieve things because of my initiative and hard work, not just because I am a female in a male-dominated industry,” Emma said.
When asked about what advice she would like to offer younger students who might like to follow in her footsteps, Emma replied, “Don’t follow in my footsteps, make your own! I think it is important for students to try and look beyond just school and think about the type of person they would like to be and the life they would like to live. We are all still so young and will potentially have multiple careers ahead of us. I don’t think it is good to put too much pressure on ourselves to make the right decision straight away. Who knows if being an electrician will be my ultimate career, but I am happy with the path I am taking currently and I know it will be the first step in the right direction for who I am.”
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