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Finding a spark: A Career in Trades

FINDING A SPARK: A CAREER IN TRADES

An office job was never on the cards for Sophie Frewin, but after finding herself sitting behind a desk not once, but twice, she knew she wouldn't make that mistake a third time! A one-year course at UCOL changed her career direction and she is now happily completing her electrical apprenticeship at Manawatū stalwart John Leader Electrical.

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Originally from a small town in Taranaki, Sophie's first experience of Manawatū came in the form of working and living on the New Zealand Army Base at Linton.

"After completing a degree at the University of Waikato in Business Analysis, I made the choice to join the army. I knew I didn't want to sit at a desk, so I found a job that took me places and got me outside. I loved it and loved my time spent in Manawatū."

However, after her one-year officer training and corporal courses Sophie found herself sitting exactly where she didn't want to be - behind a desk. To change things up, Sophie decided to leave the army and spend time overseas before returning to the family farm to decide what was next.

"I had friends in New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington so I applied for a job in each place and landed back in Manawatū - which I definitely wasn't mad about - in a customer service role for Inland Revenue."

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Although some of her friends asked why Sophie wouldn't try somewhere new, she was happy with returning to the region.

"I like Palmy because it is easy to navigate; it has the big town feel but with a small footprint so it's easy to get around. For someone like me that comes from a small town, I feel like it offers that big city shopping with the small city vibes. I also love that Palmy is close to the ranges. I really enjoy the walks around the region, especially through the Manawatū Gorge and along the river, there's plenty of choices."

Interestingly the biggest challenge Sophie found about her move back to Palmerston North was working in a female dominated environment, quite a change from her previous work in the defence force.

"Overall it was good fun, I made friends that I still have today but after two years I came to the same realisation that I was sitting behind a desk (again) just wasn't for me. I saw UCOL was offering a one-year Electrical Engineering course and I thought I would give it a go!"

As it turned out, Sophie loved her time at UCOL and it gave her more reasons to love living in Palmerston North - including the free buses for students.

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"The application process was really straightforward and it made signing up really easy. The best part about studying with UCOL was the professors. They were great, I found if you were willing to put in the effort they would help as much as they could."

It was a return to study for Sophie who had already spent time at the University of Waikato, making her one of the more experienced students in the room.

"I was one of the older students for sure but there were benefits to that! I found being older made me appreciate studying more; when I was younger I was just reliant on my natural ability and didn't put much effort in. This time around I was more focused."

Following her year of study Sophie needed to start doing work experience and perhaps thanks to fate, her home insinkerator broke down around the same time and was in need of repair.

"I did my research and found an electrician online that I thought I wanted to work for and reached out to them to do the work. After calling John Leader Electrical, John Leader himself came out to complete the job so I made the most of that! I asked him if they were looking for anyone and after a quick chat, I reached out to the office and here we are."

Now, Sophie only has a couple years left on the tools to wrap up her apprenticeship and is enjoying the process.

"It's great for a company that is so established. The wide-ranging customer base means that we get varied work coming through and it makes ticking the different requirements off for my apprenticeship much easier - I have friends working for more niche organisations and they can struggle at times to find that variety."

As for the questions everyone likes to ask Sophie, how does she find working in a male dominated industry as a young female? The truth? It's something she doesn't even notice.

"I certainly have heard horror stories from women who work in a male dominated space, but I am so thankful that I have not experienced that. I think I went into it quite ignorant of the fact that it could be an issue."

Sophie's advice to other young women considering a trade or job in this sort of industry?

"I think a lot of women have the fear that they won't be treated equally or that they will feel left out in a male space but that's not always the case. My advice would be to just give it a try - you won't know unless you give it a go!

"We put a lot of importance on staying in a role for a certain length of time, but the reality is that you need to do what is right for you. If you don't feel like you've been treated right, don't muscle through it. There are plenty of great companies in the region who are willing to give females an equal chance and who I'm sure would love to join their team."

World class & Well connected

Palmerston North and Manawatū is the home to some of the brightest minds in Aotearoa, world-class research and educational institutions and an established business ecosystem that is connected to the world. 
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Manawatū stories >>

Dive in and have a taste of what our region’s about!
EXPERIENCE Manawatū Filter
  • All
  • See & Do
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Business & Innovation
  • Taste
  • Whānau
  • Walking & Cycling
  • Itineraries
  • Shopping
  • Motorhoming
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