Apprentice swaps curling wand for welding torch
Justine Clements is comfortable challenging the norm.
After successfully graduating from Year 12, she followed a path into the career of hairdressing.
“I completed my apprenticeship and enjoyed my time as a hairdresser,’’ she said.
“But I knew I wanted something more challenging for me, I just didn’t know what that was.’’
Justine spent over a year scouring the employment ads online, hoping for that elusive challenge to jump off the screen.
Her ‘eureka’ moment came in the form of an advertisement for a plumbing apprenticeship with one of Australia’s leading naval shipbuilding companies Austal.
Based at the Henderson shipyards in Perth, Austal is designing and building 21 Guardian Class Patrol Boats for the Royal Australian Navy as part of the Australian Government’s $90 billion investment into a continuous National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise. The company also builds a host of commercial vessels for clients around the world.
“When I was looking for a new career I definitely wanted something outside of the norm,’’ she said.
“It needed to be something specialised and something I knew would challenge me.’’
Justine says the working days of a shipyard can be a bit of stretch at 10 hours long, but it’s currently only for four days a week and the payoff is a three day weekend – every week.
While there still aren’t many female plumbing apprentices in the shipbuilding industry she says the number is definitely growing and all her colleagues are extremely supportive in helping her succeed.
“Austal are also completely supportive of me exploring and expanding my skills within shipbuilding, from learning a new trade to stepping up to become a supervisor,’’ she said.
“It’s a really rewarding career and I can see myself staying in this industry for a very long time.’’
Naval Shipbuilding College Training Development Manager Graham Winter said the development of a pipeline of suitably skilled workers for the Enterprise would help form a successful foundation for building a sustainable, national workforce.
“In collaboration with the naval shipbuilding, sustainment and supply chain industries the College has been highly active in working with training and education providers in every state and territory of Australia to help align existing courses to include specific naval shipbuilding skilling requirements,’’ he said.
“Creating the opportunity for future apprentices and university students to graduate with shipbuilding skills can help potential employers save on training costs and assist people to get into a job within the industry faster.’’
At the recent Skills West Conference held in Perth in August Justine won the gold medal in the WorldSkills Competition for plumbing.
“There’s so many jobs coming online for young people and apprentices in naval shipbuilding,’’ she said.
“I’ve recommended my friends to sign up with the Naval Shipbuilding College’s Workforce Register because it’s still something not many people know about yet, but there are plenty of opportunities.’’
Justine’s work is currently focused on commercial ferries, however she is hopeful that next year she will be working on the Guardian Class Pacific Patrol Boats.
If you are interested in a naval shipbuilding career, join the national Workforce Register today.