Earning and Learning Sparks Britney’s Career Change

Kirste Floyd Energy, News, NZ Apprenticeships

When Britney Scammell was at school she always wanted to be a nurse. “I had no back-up plan.”

Part-way through a nursing degree, however, Britney realised nursing wasn’t for her, and she began to look around for new career ideas. At first, thinking it made sense to stay in the health sector, she worked for several years in dentistry. All the while the idea of being an electrician buzzed away in the back of her mind.

“When I started studying nursing, I had already become interested in the electrical industry but it just stayed at the back of my mind because I felt I needed to commit to what I had started, and I thought it was too late for me to change my career,” Britney says.

After a break that coincided with the birth of her now five-year-old son, she veered toward dentistry then, finally veered back to becoming an electrician.

“After three-and-a-half years working in dental, I still wanted to become an electrician. I knew healthcare wasn’t in my heart anymore. This time it was different and I knew if I wanted to make a change, I just had to do it.

“I had prepped myself to face the challenges of being a girl trying to get into a trade, but I was determined, so I just went for it.”

Britney’s first step was to make contact with several different electrical firms in Taupo to see if they were taking on any apprentices. After some time and persistence Sam Pook, Contact Energy Capability Lead at Wairakei Geothermal Power Station, said yes, the company was looking for an apprentice. Britney met with Sam, was put forward for a formal interview, and then offered the role. She hasn’t looked back and is now a Level 4 Electrical Trade apprentice.

“There are many things I love about my role. One of them is having a great mentor throughout the journey, who takes the time to properly train me and make sure I understand things when I get taught them.

“Another thing I love is Contact, my workplace, and the team. They are very supportive and caring, which makes things so much easier for me. I also love how hands-on my job is and everything I get to do is so exciting.”

Britney also appreciates that being an apprentice means she’s been able to earn an income while retraining. “I would have still gone for it, but it was a huge bonus for me to be able to support my family and do what I wanted career-wise.

“Being able to learn about how electricity is generated, and being able to see it all and work on it all, has been amazing. You wouldn’t really be exposed to this kind of electrical work in residential work, so I feel lucky to be where I am.”

Though she had her own reservations about working in a fairly male-dominated job, Britney says her best advice to young women considering a trade in the electrical supply industry is “just go for it”.

“It is a very rewarding job and is becoming more popular for women to get into. If you think it is only ‘a man’s job’, it’s not. That was the one thing holding me back from trying to get into the trade, but it is something that shouldn’t even cross your mind. The job is awesome, and you will learn lots of amazing things.”

Contact Chief People Officer Jan Bibby says: “The merits of working in the trades are often unsung. A trade role enables you to use both practical thinking and your hands, have varied days working in the field, and receive on-the-job training whilst being paid. It also sets you up with a career pathway for life.

“We’ve had a significant intake of female engineers at Contact over the past few years and it’s been a breath of fresh air. These women have brought different perspectives and new ways of working to our business. Diversity is key to a successful workforce. It opens up opportunities and enables a business to evolve, which is essential for an industry to survive in a fast-changing world.

“At Contact, we are committed to providing a nurturing environment which allows the next generation of our workforce to grow – regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or background.”