Celebrating women in trades: Apprentice Electrician Sarah Langer

Celebrating women in trades: Apprentice Electrician Sarah Langer
10 February 2020    Donnay Torr    0 comments
“What do chicks know about circuit boards?” “Women can’t be tradies.” “Construction is a man’s job.” Says who, huh? To celebrate International Woman’s day, Skillsroad spoke to three young people who are making their own way in skilled industries, regardless of the challenges they might face. They’re living examples of this year’s Women’s Day motto: “An equal world is an enabled world” – enabled to do better, grow healthier and happier, and achieve more.

Discover more women in work:

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“I’ve learned just how resilient I can be when I’m passionate about something.”

Sarah Langer, 20, 2nd Year Electrician with New Era Electrical Services

What is a typical day on the job like?

I honestly don’t think there is a “typical” day in the industry. There are sometimes days where you’re doing the same job but in a different area of the site, but in terms of a typical day, there isn’t really one. Sometimes the repetitiveness of some days can start to get to me but I love when there’s something new to do, a challenge to solve. My favourite part about my job is getting to learn something new every day and the general electrical side of things, I love learning everything there is to know about my trade.

What inspired you to choose this career?

I knew that I didn’t want to sit in an office for the rest of my life.

I had always had a knack for anything hands on, I just loved building things in high school and pulling things apart and putting them back together.

I left high school at the end of year 11 and spent a year floating from office job to office job and then I was in an admin role for a switchboard company where I got to learn about different equipment and items used in the electrical trade. I had already been tossing up between plumbing and electrical, even carpentry, and then I put my foot down, tossed fear aside and started applying. A year later, here I am.

What would you say are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?

Definitely getting to work and get on-the-job experience while going to TAFE and learning at the college. It helps a lot when you don’t live at home, too, giving a good balance of both sides of the coin, so you’re getting qualified and working full time at the same time.

What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?

All of it if I’m being honest. I love the practical side of the job. I love working on switchboards and doing all the terminations. That would probably be my favourite part.

Have you ever encountered stereotypes about being a “woman” working in a skills or electrical industry? If yes, how do you deal with weird or old-fashioned attitudes?

Unfortunately, yes. Most of the time the boys are pretty chill but you do occasionally get people who think that because I’m a woman I don’t deserve my job or even that I can’t do what everyone else does.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always handle it the best way, I normally just don’t take any crap from anyone and if they lay it on, I just lay it back on them.

How do you keep going when things get really tough on the job?

Mostly through my friends, it’s important to not become a workaholic. I try to keep a balance between my worksphere and lifesphere, although sometimes the hours vary and it can be a bit difficult. If I’m ever struggling with TAFE or work I normally talk to my boss and see if maybe there’s another way to approach it.

What do people always get wrong about the job you do?

That one sparky can do all the jobs that come with the industry, for example a security sparky isn’t always the best person to, say, put in a new lighting circuit. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he isn’t qualified or hasn’t been trained in that area, it’s just that they don’t do it every day so they might be a little rusty.

And what would surprise people about your job?

Just how many branches there are for electrical. Like, you have fibre optics, electronics, high voltage, low voltage, telecommunications etc.

What have you learned about yourself while doing an apprenticeship in this industry?

Just how resilient I can be when I am passionate about something. When times are tough I never thought I’d push through but I did, so I must say, I am proud of myself.

What do you think are your unique skills that make you good at what you do?

It’s a good and bad thing sometimes but my stubbornness is what makes me so determined I guess. I’m not always the best at seeing outside the box but I do try my best to bring what I can to the job. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Main image by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash.
Illustration of Sarah Langer by Lara Laiacona.

Are you a woman working in a trade or skilled industry? Share your story and experiences with us at #JobDiaries! Find out more below.

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