She’s a top tradie

September 13, 2017

When Helene Mortlock decided to become an apprentice carpenter, it was with the goal of pursuing a long-held desire to get into design.

The mature age apprentice is now also breaking moulds and barriers, winning a state award for Woman in a non-Traditional Trade or Vocation at the NSW State Training Awards in Sydney on Thursday night.

Mrs Mortlock was recognised for her off-the-job training at TAFE NSW Riverina through her father Paul Ryan’s business, Paul Ryan Building Contractors.

She starting training with her father after returning to Jerilderie from Melbourne with her family about five years ago.

When Mrs Mortlock was living in Melbourne she was a copywriter and editor for La Trobe University, while her husband, Justin, worked in IT.

‘‘When we moved to Jerilderie, Justin and I both had to make a change in careers and go back to study and re-train.

‘‘Justin is still doing IT but rather than what he was doing on Collins St, it’s now for agriculture.

‘‘Prior to moving I had an interest in design; I would assist my friends with their house renovations. So I got involved in carpentry.

‘‘I’m totally loving it; I’ve always being a physical person so it was easy to adapt.’’

Mrs Mortlock said while she was excited and honoured to have received last week’s award — and to be chosen to now contest the national awards later this year — she said she took more pleasure in that it paid tribute to her father.

‘‘I’m honoured, but more so delighted for dad,’’ Mrs Mortlock said.

‘‘Dad has been in the game for 60 years and he should be satisfied with his hard work.

‘‘People like dad that are highly skilled and have extensive knowledge, but usually take their skills with them when they retire.

‘‘So I’m very fortunate to learn from him.’’

Mr Ryan said given his time in the industry, and his age, he was glad to pass on his skills to his daughter before his retirement.

‘‘I’m very proud of her,’’ he said.

‘‘She only got the award by putting in the hard work, and she has great attention to detail with everything she does.

‘‘At my young age of 77, it’s possible she might be my last apprentice.’’

According to 2015 Australia Bureau of Statistics results, only five per cent of full time employees in the construction industry are women.

Mrs Mortlock said her experience and her award will hopefully be a catalyst for more choosing to challenge themselves in their careers.

‘‘It’s not about working physically harder if you’re a carpenter or tradie, you need to work smarter,’’ she said.

‘‘I’ve been able to apply some of my skills from when I was at La Trobe to my new career.

‘‘If different workplaces can change their culture it will increase the employment opportunities for women — for half the population.

‘‘Many of my clients are women and they like having a woman working for them.

‘‘Ultimately it comes down to skills and good communication.’’

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