Training sparks a whole new approach to life

Becoming an apprentice electrician hasn’t just given Beks Carter a job she loves, it’s changed her approach to life.

“Every time I go out of my comfort zone, I’m learning more about myself. I’m getting more confidence in myself. Once, I was in an office, I was safe, set and secure, with an air conditioner. Now I’m out on the sites. It’s hot. It’s raining. I’m not comfortable at all. But after the day’s done, I look back and I think ‘look what you did today, you were out there trying your best’. That’s what I love. I can be satisfied with my work because I’m trying my best and I know that.”

Beks took on an electrical apprenticeship through EarnLearn with Thomas Electrical in Whakatu, Hawkes Bay almost a year ago. Before that she’d considered becoming a nurse, but when that didn’t pan out, she worked as a barista, in retail and in insurance administration in Melbourne. When Covid brought her back to New Zealand, she found an admin job with an electrical company.

Needing to learn more about the skills needed to become an electrician in order to help apprentices she was working with, Beks found it sparked her own interest in learning the trade.

“I was always passionate about science and I knew I wanted to use my brain a lot for a job. I didn’t want to just sit and type, type, type. Becoming an apprentice I realised I could still work with science but not have to go through university and go through all that debt. It was a game-changer to realise I could still use my brain and learn, and earn.”

She says the past year of training hasn’t just given her new skills and a job she loves, it has changed her as a person.

“The biggest highlight for me is probably seeing the person that I’m starting to become, from where I started as a shy, keep-to-myself person to being thrown in the deep end, having to make all these decisions that I’ve never made before.

“It’s turned me into someone who’s kind of blossomed and is a lot more confident. That just inspires me to keep going every day.”

The variety of her job and the opportunities to keep learning every day, are some of the things Beks loves about being an electrical apprentice. “Every day is different, and I don’t really know 100% what I’m getting into. There’s never a dull moment. There’s always something new to learn and new people to meet from different trades. You not only learn from the electricians you work with, but you learn from the plumbers, the builders, and plasters and painters. You’re just constantly learning and having new experiences.”

One of the biggest challenges Beks has had to overcome during her training has been a fear of heights. “I’m petrified, I go weak in the knees and start sweating. It’s not a pretty sight. But just through the support of my team and company, I’ve been able to push past that boundary and get more comfortable being up high. That’s another thing that’s made me feel more confident in myself.”

Beks says she has also had plenty of support from her EarnLearn account manager and tutor when it comes to tackling the book-work part of her training.

“My account manager is always giving me goals and just keeping me going, and my tutor is always just a text away if I’m stuck and struggling with something. They’re always there to make it easier for you, and I really appreciate that.”

One challenge Beks hasn’t had to deal with is any issues with being a woman in what is still a male-dominated industry. “Nobody treats me differently because I’m a woman. They just kind of make space for you. They allow you to still be who you are.

“Everybody will still push you to do your best regardless of whether you’re a woman or man, they just want you to do well, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

“If a young woman came up to me and asked me what it was like, I would tell her it is really exciting. It’s challenging, but rewarding and if you’re interested in it and you want to give it a go, then just do it.

“There’s no point thinking about the ‘what ifs’, ‘what if I’m not good enough?’; ‘What if they treat me differently?’ ‘What if they give me a bit more stress because I’m a female?’ Just take that all out and do it.

“You will look back three years later, after you’ve finished your apprenticeship, and you’ll be like, ‘look who I was then and look who I am now’. Picture that person in your mind and go for it.”

As for her own future, Beks is confident her electrical apprenticeship can take her anywhere she wants to go.

“I think it could take me to so many places that I haven’t even thought of yet. I’m just learning each day that there are new things I could do with this apprenticeship.

“You don’t need a degree to do that with electrical, you just need to have the ambition to learn and I feel like I definitely have that in me.

“I love the small residential stuff but I do see myself going elsewhere; pushing myself to be this woman that I’ve seen just running a whole line of machines or robots. I keep that in my head every day and that’s what I work for.”

See Bek’s video interview here.

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