At 16, Jennifer Perkins was ready to leave school. With no job lined up, her mum was not going to make her departure from school easy. Knowing that she loved working with her hands, Jennifer found herself an electrical apprenticeship and since that day, she has not looked back.
Thirty-two years later, Jennifer is now passing her skills onto the next generation of electricians as the Team Leader of Electrical Trade at TAFE NSW.
“By year 11, I knew that school wasn’t for me and with a push from my mum, I decided to find a career that I would be passionate about,” Jennifer says.
“I knew that I liked being hands on and that’s when I decided to start an electrical apprenticeship.
“After completing my apprenticeship I worked full time as a licensed electrician, before becoming a teacher at TAFE NSW in 2005.
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“During my time at TAFE NSW I have had the pleasure of teaching some very talented students and working on some amazing projects that have provided students the opportunity to progress into a careers they may not have thought possible.”
Throughout her career, Jennifer has seen the industry change.
“There has been a big shift in way the industry operates due to changes in technology,” she says.
“I have also seen more diversity coming into what is a male-dominated industry, with more female students choosing to become electricians.
“I was the only female electrician that I knew for almost 20 years. Now, we have five to 10 female apprentices studying electrotechnology at each of the six TAFE NSW electrical trade sections that I look after.”
In the last six months, Jennifer and the TAFE NSW St George electrotechnology team have delivered two Women’s pre-apprenticeship programs, in collaboration with large employers of electrical apprentices. The programs are for female school leavers and job seekers just like Jennifer, who wish to gain employment in the electrical industry.
Jennifer explained, “The courses have excellent employment outcomes, with many of the participants moving into electrical apprenticeships, once they completed the course.”
Electricians are among the most sought after occupations across the trades and services sector. They account for 48 per cent of all new job ads in the NSW’s trades and service sector, and over the next four years The Commonwealth Government forecasts an extra 7100 new jobs will open up for Australian electricians.
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Passionate about her job and her industry Jennifer is excited for what’s to come.
“It’s thrilling to work in an industry that is ever growing and changing,” she says.
“Managing a team of talented TAFE NSW teachers, who are training tomorrow’s workforce and helping them to achieve careers they are passionate about, makes coming to work each day a very rewarding experience.”