Where are they now: Kaitlyne Watson

In celebration of National Skills Week, we caught up with HVTC alumni and Maitland local, Kaitlyne Watson, to see what she’s been up to since completing her electrical apprenticeship.

Tell us a little bit about your apprenticeship with HVTC

I completed an auto-electrical apprenticeship with HVTC in 2014. Daracon was my host employer and Kurri Kurri TAFE was my RTO (Registered Training Organisation). I really enjoyed working for Daracon because they had such a wide variety of machinery, but unfortunately at the end of my apprenticeship they didn’t have a full-time position available so I took some time off and found work at a local hot air balloon business. That was pretty cool!

Where have you been working since?
I was at Balloon Aloft Hunter Valley for about 4 months but I was pretty eager to get back into my trade, so I got a job with Workpac working on light vehicles at Mount Thorley Warkworth (MTW). I was there for about 2 years before I started working with Procool – first contracted to Glencore's Ravensworth open cut mine and now Glencore's Bulga open cut. I’ve gone from working on light vehicles to massive haul trucks!

What was your reaction when you saw a haul truck up close for the first time?
The first time I stood underneath one of the haul trucks I remember being blown away by how big everything was, not just the trucks but the parts, which are 30 times bigger than what you’d see in a light vehicle. And then sometimes there’s two, or three of the same parts. That was what took the most getting used to – the size and scale of everything.

What’s a typical day in the “office” for you like?

At the moment I’m working on rebuilds of CAT 739D and 793D haul trucks. Every day we kick off at around 7.00am with a pre-start meeting to run through what we’re all doing for the shift before we begin fully decommissioning the truck. Then we start rebuilding the truck from the ground up. On any day I could be wiring up an isolation box or replacing any of the four batteries, which weigh 60kg each and have to be craned up to the truck. Sometimes I’ll work half the day on one truck and the other half on a different truck. The good thing is I’m always doing something different.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I like that it’s so hands on. When I was younger I used to tinker on different cars and machinery with my dad and brother, so I’ve always preferred hands on work. My job can be very physically and mentally demanding and there’s a lot of problem solving involved, but I’m always busy and that’s what I love about it.

Why did you choose this career path? Was university ever on your radar or did you always plan to do a trade?
I never wanted to go to uni, it just never interested me, so during the last few years at school I set myself up to give me the best chance of getting a trade. In year 10 I chose metalwork and woodwork electives and really enjoyed them both. I even joined the school’s science and engineering team and got to travel around the state competing in different challenges.

Towards the end of year 10 I did some work experience with my uncle, who is an electrician. I really enjoyed it, so coming into year 11 and 12 I picked subjects to help pursue that career path. I studied construction and electronics and even did a specialised math elective focusing on equations, which I still use today. I also did a pre-apprenticeship at TAFE in electro-technology.

While everyone else was studying for HSC exams, I was preparing for job interviews. A lot of kids at that age are under a lot of pressure from the HSC and most of them still don’t know what they want to do. I feel lucky that I knew what I wanted to do pretty early on and am grateful for where I’ve gotten so far in my career.

What do you think is the value in Vocational Education and Training (VET)?
I think it’s really important to get on-the-job practical experience. Personally I think that’s the only way we really learn.

What are some of the memorable experiences from throughout your training? What important skills did you learn that you’ve carried through to your current role?
During my apprenticeship I learnt a lot of skills that I use all the time, not just at work but at home too. I recently kitted up three cars with dual battery systems and fridges for a family camping trip.

What’s next in your career?
I’m pretty happy where I am now. Procool is only a small team of about 8-10 and my boss has been really supportive. Long-term I’d like to stay in the mining sector and potentially gain experience working on some different machinery, but I’m really enjoying the rebuilds at the moment.

Want to follow in Kaitlyne's footsteps and undertake an Australian Apprenticeship? Visit our vacancies page to browse through current career opportunities in NSW.

HVTC Alumni Kaitlyne Watson standing in front of Procool work vehicle