With the launch of Apprenticeships Matter for Women, we’ve taken the opportunity to speak to one of our apprentices Emma Harwood and her experience.
Emma is a Mechanical Technician Apprentice at Mercedes Benz in Brighton. As well as completing her apprenticeship, she is completing her Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology at Chisholm Institute.
Emma’s journey and experience as a female in a non-traditional trade is incredibly inspiring. Prior to starting her apprenticeship, Emma went to University where she decided to combine her passion of art and video games. However, after two and a half years of studying she decided to leave, knowing that she would have faced the reality that many tertiary students do, which is that of limited employment opportunities upon graduating. After deciding to leave her studies, Emma worked in a stable with horses for two more years. With much more hands on experience under her belt, it was at this point that she decided to complete an apprenticeship.
Emma is three years in to her apprenticeship and working at Mercedes Benz in Brighton. Despite no one in her family having a passion for cars or mechanics, with the support of her family she decided to give a mechanical apprenticeship a shot.
Since starting her apprenticeship in 2015, Emma states that the experience has exceeded her expectations. Not only has it given her a better view of what opportunities there is, it has also shown her what she is capable of. When asked of particular moment that proved this, she couldn’t put it down to just one point in time. Instead, she spoke of her initial surprise and excitement over the fact she actually got to pull a part engines. When going into the apprenticeship, she expected to spend a lot of her time completing basic tasks, but prior experience at TAFE meant she was able to fast track this process. This responsibility has now become a part of her day to day duties, where she might be responsible for servicing a car or completing a repair, which could include pulling out an engine or diagnosing a problem.
The responsibility that has been entrusted on her has really instilled a sense of confidence, which she believes is a reason why she has been able to excel in her role. Not only this, but Emma puts it down to being surrounded by a good and supportive team. As Emma puts it – ‘if I ever have questions about what I am doing, I can always ask. It means a lot of the responsibility isn’t too daunting.’
Before starting her apprenticeship, Emma though it “impossible” to get work in an industry that was traditionally male dominated and where apprentices were generally younger. Despite being faced with these challenges and doubts, Emma went on to bust the myth when she landed he role at Mercedes Benz in Brighton.
When asked what it was like working in a male dominated industry, Emma laughed coyly and stated ‘it’s pretty good actually.’ She said despite people’s initial shock, her fellow employees really respected her as a worker because she pays attention and knows what she is doing. As she mentions, she’s seen as just another worker and without the “female” label.
Her advice to any young girl looking to work in a non-traditional trade is to know as much as you can about what you are getting into. As Emma puts it ‘when you have the knowledge, people will respect you.’
She puts emphasis on understanding your trade and remaining interested, because she personally found that once people saw she was eager to learn, they were more than happy to help her out.
Looking ahead, Emma aspires to be an AMG technician, which is the next step up from her role as mechanical technician. For her this means going to Germany and Portugal for further training and building on her existing knowledge.
Emma’s story is evidence that if you set your mind to something and work hard, you can achieve your goals. She continues to go from strength to strength and we can’t wait to see where her career takes her.
Thank you to Emma for letting us feature her and to Chris and the team at NGP/Mercedes Benz for their cooperation and assistance.