Tasmania, an inspiring place to learn

Making the choice to change career is never an easy one. For electrotechnology apprentice Marek Porter, from the state’s north west, the choice to move from joinery to electrotechnology at age 36 has proved to be inspirational.

Marek commenced his wood machining apprenticeship at the age of 15 and worked his way up in the building and construction industry for the next 20 years to become 2IC in the joinery company he worked for. He had always been interested in the hydroelectric engineering feats that are now part of Tasmania’s history and felt inspired to investigate a career that would take him into industrial electrical.

“I was at a bit of a cross roads”, he explains. “I’d been in the construction industry for quite a while, I had a young family and was considering whether this industry was the right choice for me in the long term.”

Once he’d made the decision to change careers he wanted to find an employer who would support his study and help him achieve his goals.

“I approached a local company who subcontracts for Hydro Tasmania and asked them if they would be interested in a mature age apprentice, and it went from there.”

Marek started his apprenticeship in late 2015 and began studying at TasTAFE in Burnie early the following year. He says that making the decision to change industries wasn’t an easy one, and he was worried he would find the theory difficult.

“I was apprehensive about what I was going to undertake and had the perception that electrical was going to be hard because of the theory involved. I completed my first 2 units of the course – through block release and online knowledge tests, passing with flying colours.

“It’s fair to say I had a lifelong interest in electrical, and living in Tasmania I was attracted to Hydro Tasmania and the scale of working in the industrial electrical industry.

Marek achieved his Certificate III in Electrotechnology in 2019, through TasTAFE in Burnie and says changing careers has been rewarding.

“It was a bit daunting to change career and go back to being a first year apprentice at 36. It didn’t come without hard work and a bit of sacrifice. I have no regrets and wish I’d done it earlier,” Marek explained.

Marek has just completed his final year with TasTAFE for employer NECA at host employer RBD Electrical and Instrumentation. But all work and no play isn’t what changing careers is about so what does Marek do to unwind? He has a clear passion for Tasmania and for exploring mountain bike trails with his wife and family in his spare time.

“I have worked interstate and locally, and I have even more appreciation for the state and what it has to offer. I feel like I’m in the right place. When I’m not doing this I love to spend time with my family caravanning or head out mountain biking around world renowned Derby or Wild Mersey near Latrobe.”

Marek is a strong advocate for taking the plunge into training. Whether that’s giving something a go for the first time, retraining or doing a second apprenticeship or traineeship in another discipline. He acknowledges that choosing to start a new course or career can be daunting but promises that rewards are there.

My advice is to jump in head first. You’re never too old to retrain or diversify your career. I reflect on my own story, I approached RBD Electrical & Instrumentation and asked if they would be interested in putting on a mature age apprentice. They jumped at it with open arms. I started my first apprenticeship at 15 and that was a good choice, but there are also advantages in being a mature age apprentice

The Tasmanian vocational education and training system has a lot to offer people considering new careers or improving their skills. Courses can be undertaken through TasTAFE or with other registered training organisations around the state and range from electrical and other trades through to hospitality, the care sector, management and leadership and everything in between.

For more information about the opportunities available visit TasTAFE, look at the options on myskills.gov.au or the Skills Tasmania website.