By Casey Neill
Stacey Mcgookin spent two years searching for an employer to give her a go.
The Cranbourne 21-year-old always wanted to do a trade and her cousin introduced her to air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics.
“My cousin does this as well. She took me under her wing for a bit and showed me what it was like and I loved it,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to do more hands-on things. I’ve never seen myself as someone who could sit in an office.”
It’s a male-dominated field and Stacey was the only woman in her pre-apprenticeship course.
“I was trying to get a job for a long time,” she said.
“I had a couple of interviews elsewhere but obviously I wasn’t the right fit for their company.
“It was a year and a half, two years of trying. It was a lot of rejection emails.”
She didn’t receive much more than a “sorry you have not been successful“.
Then she found an advertisement for an apprenticeship with Hallam’s ASM Chilltech, which services, maintains and installs commercial and industrial chillers and air-conditioners.
She applied, received a phone call the next day and had an interview the day after.
General manager Gavin Cheesman said he had no reason not to hire Stacey.
“To be honest she was by far the best interview that I had, the best resume,” he said.
He received 50-plus applications in response to the ad within about two weeks.
“I think we were down to about five or six that we interviewed,” he said.
“She was the most prepared. She had a lot of questions written down. From that point of view I was impressed.
“Stacey was the only female that we interviewed.
“I think we had two applications but one was in South Australia.
“Last year we had a female who got to the second interview but didn’t quite deliver at the end.”
Mr Cheesman said Stacey also stood out because she wanted to be in air-conditioning.
“A lot of people who come in want to do a trade, but they don’t know which one,” he said.
“It’s a four-year, low-paying commitment. You need someone who wants to do it and wants to stick it out.
“We’re looking beyond the apprenticeship.
“We don’t want to put four years into someone and then lose them.”
Mr Cheesman said taking Stacey on did mark a big change for the business.
“It is male-dominated. We had a little bit of a chat about how we thought the guys would behave,” he said.
“We had to be mature enough as a business to do the right thing.
“We’ve been talking to the technicians as we go.
“The older ones have become very dad-like.
“If you’ve got good people working for you, they tend to do the right thing.”
Stacey said everyone had been supportive. She hopes other girls will follow her lead and give traditionally male trades a go.
“There’s another girl in my trade school class, which is great,” she said.
“It’s good to see more girls doing it.”