TWA recently met up with Mim Sowter – a down to earth, strong and multi-talented electrical tradeswoman. Mim started her electrical career when she was 30, starting with a pre-apprenticeship and moving into her electrical apprenticeship. She will shortly begin an exciting career with Downer in assisting in new train builds being rolled out on the Victorian rail network.
Thanks for joining us Mim. I suppose we’ll start from the start! Thinking back to when you started your apprenticeship, what were the reasons that made you decide to undertake the electrical trade?
When I began my apprenticeship, there was a high demand for apprentices as well as lots of A grade jobs listed. The pay rates are good too. It gave me confidence in employment prospects for future because the industry was growing. Also electrical is a trade I feel I can physically manage until retirement, in comparison to other more physically demanding trades.
A really practical approach. What do you like about your job and the type of work you do?
Being able to see your work results and progress visibly is quite rewarding. I like the physical side of the job too. It’s nice to get home at the end of the day tired physically, as well as mentally. You feel like you have achieved something when you’re tired after a big day. I like doing commercial work because you get an opportunity to work with a lot of different people and learn skills from a lot of different tradesmen, and their varied experiences.
And what’s your favourite aspect of your job?
When you have the lightbulb moment – that time when something you may have struggled to understand or grasp before, makes sense. It can be hard learning all the time, because you do have bad days but it makes those “oh, I am actually going to get this” instances that make it worthwhile. I find the opportunity to practice and have a variety of different teachers in group training can help accelerate that.
We definitely understand that – it does make your efforts worthwhile. Given your experience in the industry, what advice would you give to other young women considering an apprenticeship?
Be ready for a challenge and prepare for the fact that it will be tough. There are a lot of networks out there that you can reach out to, so seek our other female mentors and talk to them. Also, get on to some resources – make sure they can find you – they can really help you when you’re struggling.
Those are wise words. Thinking long term, Where do you see yourself ending up in the industry?
It’s hard to say given what is happening economically here at the moment. I would like to, first of all, become good at my trade, and I think a lot of learning happens after your apprenticeship too. But I think to properly feel confident to give a definitive answer to this question, I would need to feel confident that I will have a secure and permanent job, of any kind, in the industry in future. My goal in my career is to have good quality work in a healthy industry, and a healthy Industry that could offer me diversity of options in future. I say variety because I would like the opportunity to choose a job be it from a secure job as an A grade on the tools, a manager, teacher or any other capacity that my skills might meet. I think a growing industry will feed into all these.
Job security is a big factor in long term strategies during these present struggles. Our next question revolves around Mim outside of work! Tell us more about what your interests are?
I have a second job in hospitality, so I am pretty busy outside of my apprenticeship. I like keeping a foot in the door, as my hospitality crew are fun and it’s nice to have a change of scenery, get paid and stay out of trouble. During my time off, laughing, cooking and eating with friends and family and also am a bit of a speed demon and would like to try rally driving in future. It’s on the bucket list to be my next project after I finish my apprenticeship.
TWA thank Mim for her valuable time and insights into the electrical trade and apprenticeship experience. Amidst her busy schedule, Mim regularly devotes her time to sharing her story and advice to industry panels, and was recently featured in A Current Affair’s “Tradies Wanted” story – you can view this news story via https://tradeswomenaustralia.com.au/2020/07/08/development-of-womens-skills-base-in-trades-would-help-end-australias-skills-shortages-3/.
If this story has encouraged and inspired you to join Mim, and many other electrical tradeswomen, as an apprentice, please get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will ensure we put you in touch with our industry contacts to start your new career journey.