Brisbane resident Stephanie Peters has become the first female air conditioning and refrigeration apprentice to be hired by Broadcast Services Australia (BSA) in Queensland, a national technical services company.
Peters herself admits she took a more conventional path before deciding to apply for her apprenticeship at TAFE Queensland.
“In high school it was really drilled into us that university was the only pathway,” she says.
Because of that, she decided to study arts and law at university before trying her hand at an office job. She soon realised that her dream job may be suited to a more hands-on career – such as in a trade.
“I thought that a trade might be something that I should look at,” she says. “It had all the things I wanted; paid study, being outside and the ability to move around.”
She picked air conditioning and refrigeration because it had a mix of all of those aspects.
Since starting her apprenticeship at TAFE Queensland, she has been hired by BSA in the Queensland branch.
BSA Regional Manager (South East Queensland HVAC) Tim Edwards says that Peters excels in all aspect of her apprenticeship.
Peters hopes to encourage more women into the industry, where female air conditioning and refrigeration trades people represent only 1 per cent of the industry’s national workforce.
She says that all the men in her TAFE classes, and those she’s worked with, have been very welcoming.
“I thought that some of the older guys in the industry might not like the idea of a girl coming in,” she says, “but it was the complete opposite – they were super supportive and helped me with any questions I had or anything I needed to learn.
“It is scary at the start … but the rewards I get completely outweigh any doubts I initially had. I would definitely encourage other women to do it and not be scared.”
Having come from a university background, Stephanie says studying at TAFE Queensland is no easier than university, but the big difference is the amount of support students receive.
“At TAFE you get so much more support from your teachers, student services and also from within the class,” Stephanie says. “At university you’re in a classroom with 300 people and you can’t put your hand up and say that you don’t understand.
“At TAFE you’re in a smaller classroom and you can always ask the teacher to explain and everyone just moves through the training together.”
Stephanie plans to enroll in Certificate IV in Engineering and study part-time on top of her apprenticeship.
“The goal is that once I finish my apprenticeship I want to look at pathways either in the controls side of air conditioning or even engineering,” Stephanie says. “I’m taking those mini-steps to just feel out what I’d like to do, but I definitely want to stay in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.”