My name is Kiarra Ruttley, and I joined the TransGrid team in January 2018 at the age of 17. I am now in the second year of a four year electrical apprenticeship, which is a combination of TAFE studies, which I do in a three day block every three weeks, and on the job training. I’m based out of our Tamworth office, but the region we look after is vast.
One of the reasons I love my job is the variety. This week, I was part of a construction team that replaced an old circuit breaker and set of current transformers in a 24 hour shift rotation, at Moree substation; last week, I worked with the maintenance team at Armidale on a circuit breaker and parts of a transformer maintenance; and in a couple of weeks’ time I’ll be on my way to Wallerawang, where I’ll do an isolator replacement for a line limitations construction project. Working with electricity at TransGrid is an exciting career path where no two days are ever the same – and it’s even more remarkable because I’m still an apprentice, learning my trade.
Here are my top tips for anyone considering an electrical apprenticeship:
Think outside the box when considering career options
When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated. I really liked maths, so I thought about accounting, but I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day. My dad brought up the idea of entering the trades, as many of my family are tradespeople, and when I thought about it I realised that electrical work uses many maths concepts. There are lots of formulas and problem solving which I love, and I get to be out and about while doing it.
And now, I find working with high voltage really exciting, even though it can be a bit scary at times! That’s because electricity is intangible – I’m dealing with something that I can’t see, smell or hear (except for the buzzing we know too well at our substations). But safety is the biggest priority at TransGrid, so there are always procedures to follow to avoid taking risks.
Be selective when it comes to choosing your future employer
When it came to choosing an apprenticeship, TransGrid was my preferred employer, as it has a fantastic reputation as a place to work. As a female, there are lots more opportunities these days in careers which are typically male dominated, and I find TransGrid has really stood out in this space. I’m working with a diverse group of people, and this includes men and women of all ages – some who have chosen to change careers later in life.
Over the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve learned so much especially in terms of hands on experience: skills like using tools, or correctly undoing a bolt (something so simple yet I never really did it), or just understanding how things react and connect together to make something work. Just finding out the processes behind everything we do – even as something simple like turning on a light – is a real eye opener.
Ensure you have a support network and flexibility for a work/life balance
One of the best things about doing my apprenticeship at TransGrid is the level of support on offer. I have bi-monthly check-ups with my mentor, who looks after my wellbeing and asks if I need any help with TAFE studies or extra training. Once a month I complete my job activity records, which track my level of understanding on the jobs I’ve been working on. There is also plenty of flexibility; I’ve needed time off for a couple of surgeries and my team supported me in taking as much time to recuperate as I needed. I also work a nine day fortnight, and can bank my rostered days off (RDO) when necessary due to job requirements.
Electrical work can be challenging at times, but it’s such a versatile career with plenty of opportunities for development and progression. I can branch off to engineering, or to protection, or explore many other avenues in the future. I’m not quite sure what is in store for me yet, but time will tell. At the moment, I’m just taking every opportunity to learn and enjoy the work I’m doing.