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Jane Taylor’s job is high voltage – and high stakes. Working as an industrial electrician at the Nyrstar Hobart zinc smelter, a standard maintenance job can quickly become critical work.

“There’s a big difference between wiring in some lights and some power points in a brand-new house, compared to when you’ve got a piece of equipment that makes the company millions of dollars an hour, and if it’s broken down you need to fix it and the pressure’s on you,” says Jane.

Making the switch

Jane isn’t your typical apprentice. After working for more than a decade as a supermarket department manager and having kids, she decided on a new career direction upon rejoining the workforce.

“I’m turning 36 this year and traditionally apprenticeships are done when you’re in your teens. Yeah, it was nerve racking!”

But Jane says it was a fantastic move, which has landed her in a flexible workplace with a great team, and management who support her career ambitions. She recommends anyone thinking of entering the industry spends time on work placements, to get a realistic expectation of the job.

“I love it. It’s a bit dirty and dusty, but we get a good variety and I love working with the high voltage networks. It’s just a brilliant team, I love the people I work with.”

Problem solving every day

Pandemic-related supply chain delays have created extra problem-solving challenges for the fourth-year apprentice, especially when working on older equipment.

“You can’t order the parts for it anymore, or you have to try and make something else work. COVID has absolutely affected the shipping times and everything. So, if we’ve got an analyser that’s pooped itself, you’re looking at a five, six month wait for something to come from overseas to replace it. You’ve got to make something else fit until it comes.”

“It’s a good feeling when you get it done, that’s for sure! I mean, there’s no better feeling.”

Fit for the job

Jane believes she’s the third female electrician at the smelter in more than 100 years, and says that came with some teething problems. “We sorted them out. You know, can I get women’s clothes instead of being expected to wear men’s clothes? Things that wouldn’t even have crossed their minds.”

The most important thing for Jane has never been an issue: equal treatment. For example, both men and women are afforded the same flexibility around unexpected family demands. “It’s never an issue. They just say, ‘Yeah that’s fine, we’ll see you when you get here’. And they’re the same for everybody. Having the permanent hours and the flexibility to work around family, for me personally is ideal.”

All the teams out here are fantastic and as an apprentice, as the site’s so big every six months we get moved to a different section, so we get experience site-wide.
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.

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