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After years of bartending and front-of-house roles, Emilee Owen needed a break. She dreamed of doing her own van conversion, and enrolled at TAFE to do a Certificate II in carpentry.

“I was looking at learning a few hands-on practical skills to point me in the right direction for working on my own projects,” says Emilee.

Then Valley Workshop owner Penny Haley contacted TAFE, looking for apprentices.

Taking a chance

“I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by going for an interview. I was feeling pretty burnt out from hospitality and needing a bit of a career change. It hadn’t occurred to me up until that point that I actually could have a career in construction!”

Emilee got the job, and has just started the second year of her carpentry apprenticeship. She splits her time between the workshop and building sites.

“In the workshop we’ll be building panels a lot of the time for the houses. If we’re working on site, either we’ve got the crane and will be lifting panels and putting them together, or doing more traditional carpentry work, putting battens on or any of the myriad jobs once all the walls and floors and roof are on.”

So many benefits

Emilee’s career change has been a steep learning curve.

“Coming from a completely different background, it was quite challenging initially to get my head around this very different style of work and thinking. Just going from a very social job with sort of social problems, to having to think quite practically.”

But ultimately, it’s been better for her lifestyle and mental health.

“It was quite amazing going from working ridiculous hours all weekends to having structure Monday to Friday and then guaranteed weekends off. It was a lovely contrast!”

Micro living

Emilee’s van conversion is still on the cards and she’s excited by the prospect of a career she can take on the road. She’s keen to renovate her own place, and is interested in the tiny homes movement.

“In the current climate they’ll be quite high in demand. I like the fact that it’s not such a daunting project size-wise, but the amount of skills required would be quite large. It would be a beneficial experience to learn all sides of the jobs required to build a tiny home.”

She’d recommend the construction industry to anyone, saying it provides endless career options.

“Don’t be intimidated by the idea. There’s no real reason why women can’t work in the industry, it’s just been social norms and archaic ideas that we’ve all grown up with. Just go for it, give it a try!”

That idea that you once saw in the trades, you know ‘just harden up, get it done as fast as possible’? Now there’s an intentional avoidance of that kind of culture. It’s really beneficial.
Keystone Tasmania
Keystone Tasmania is the peak organisation facilitating building and construction industry workforce development in Tasmania.
We acknowledge the palawa people as the traditional custodians of the land on which we learn and work. We honour their enduring culture and knowledges as vital to the self-determination, wellbeing and resilience of their communities.

Website proudly developed in collaboration with Tasmanian business The20 logo


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