Joelle Smyth, Apprentice Electrician
Photography by silverimage.ie
I started Studying Business Psychology College in September of last year at Athlone IT. Within two weeks I knew it wasn’t for me. My Dad knows me quite well and encouraged me to consider becoming an electrical apprentice. We both work at the new Facebook site in Cloonee, and so does my sister who is working in an administrative role there.
I knew that going down this route meant that I was going to be faced with some challenges that might be potentially difficult to overcome. Namely, the major change of working outside on a site versus being in a classroom. I also knew that I was going to be working outside and most likely, arriving home from work very dirty each day. The environment would be very different with lots of large machinery constantly moving about, and it would be really important to have a strong awareness of my surroundings.
But I figured that it was possible I might really enjoy it. When I was in transition year in high school we would do projects in woodwork and metalwork. I always enjoyed these activities as they were hands on work. On top of this I play camogie which takes good hand-eye coordination skills.
When you begin working onsite as an apprentice electrician, you start instantly developing ways to improve your organisational and communication skills. I had thought the days would be quite long because I had never worked such long hours before. Surprisingly, the time passes extremely fast as there is always work to be done and learning opportunities to make the most of.
One of my favourite things about this job is the site itself. It’s a big site and I am constantly meeting new people. If they have a moment they stop and ask me questions about my apprenticeship and why I chose this trade. I learn a lot from them in terms of the work they do. It also provides me with insights into what I will be doing in the future. The guys on my crew are encouraging when I want to try new things. They are patient and like to have a laugh at the same time.
I feel that I am supported a lot more in this job than I myself expected. Perhaps I don’t have some of the prior experience that other apprentices have but I am always being shown the safe and correct way to use any tool. I also get the impression that it is more acceptable for women now than it might have been a decade ago. People are becoming more accustomed to the idea of women in these jobs. Not only that, women are being encouraged to learn and join more trades roles. It’s definitely an area of work that women should not rule out working in. Mercury Engineering were very happy when I enquired about the apprenticeship, and are definitely interested in employing more women.
Fortunately I find I am able to support myself sufficiently as an apprentice. I am lucky because my Dad also works on the site so we can travel together. I am also currently living at home so I don’t have the same expenses as others. The wage is good for a first year apprentice.
There are lots of things that are valuable and significant to me in the rest of my week. Playing with my local camogie team is a big part of my life. We have accomplished so much in the past few years as a team. It means a lot to me that we continue this and enjoy every match and every training session.
I’ve also completed a few driving lessons and am looking forward to continuing on with them. I am in a relationship as well, and it’s important to me that I get to spend time with my boyfriend when he is home from college. All my friends are busy doing different things these days but we always try to find time to spend with each other. That’s important to me as well.