Top tips from STEM apprentices

Eliza - STEM apprentices
Eliza Greenwood, Technical Support Engineer

Thinking about vocational education and training (VET) after school? Awesome! STEM apprenticeships can lead to super cool career paths. Just ask these five pros (who were once STEM apprentices) working in everything from UX design at Google to maintenance at Rio Tinto. They share their top tips for getting into STEM.

1. Eliza Greenwood, Technical Support Engineer

In Year 11, Eliza completed a Certificate III in IT as part of her HSC. The work experience she undertook as part of the certificate opened her eyes to career possibilities she hadn’t ever thought about before. Towards the end of the HSC Eliza started thinking about studying the Certificate IV in IT. She then found out about the Microsoft Traineeship Program, which pairs aspiring IT professionals with Microsoft partner businesses for on-the-job training while earning a Certificate IV. She applied and was accepted into the program, then started working MOQdigital while spending one day a week studying at TAFE.

Her advice for future STEM apprentices? Take a chance “I’m glad I took the opportunity. There’s a lot of learning in work experience.”

Eliza’s study + career path

  • HSC / Certificate III in IT
  • Microsoft Traineeship Program / Certificate IV in IT
  • IT support role, MOQdigital
  • Technical support engineer, Communications Design & Management

2. Peter Finlan, UX Designer

Peter - STEM apprentices
Image: Marie Efstathiou

Take your time figuring out your STEM pathway! After high school, Peter took a three-year gap to try different things and find something he was confident he could spend the rest of his life doing. “Tech was always there, but I wanted to be sure,” he says.

Peter then went on to complete a Diploma of Website Development at TAFE NSW. “I’m a huge advocate for the TAFE system, providing thousands of students alternative pathways into the careers they love,” he says.

And now? He works in UX at Google!

Peter’s study + career path

  • Diploma of Web Design, TAFE NSW
  • Founder, Pixel Alumni
  • Freelance Designer, Australia & abroad
  • Senior Product Designer,
  • Senior Product Designer, Canva
  • Author, Codrops
  • UX Lead, Google

3. Stef Apostolidis, Site Manager

Stef - STEM apprentices

Site manager Stef kickstarted her career with a carpentry apprenticeship. Her advice to high school students thinking of study and career choices is to focus on the subjects you enjoy, “because that’s what you will end up being good at. If not, you will find it. Don’t stress. Think about what you enjoy most, and try to envision that in a job.

“Everyone is different and you need to think about what you enjoy and then get a job that suits your needs and likes.”

Stef’s study + career path

  • Year 12 certificate
  • Cert III in Carpentry, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Diploma of Building and Construction, Swinburne University

4. Nicholas McLennan, Electrical Engineering Technician

Nicholas - STEM apprentices

Don’t think there’s only one way in to engineering! When researching his future STEM study and career path, Nicholas came across the role of Electrical Engineering Technician, which combined both the coding and hands-on aspects he was looking for in a career. He then applied for an Electrical Apprenticeship at Macquarie Generation.

“Once I realised how much I was enjoying both my work and my TAFE studies in electrical engineering, I decided I would cement my future in the field. If you’re interested in engineering, I recommend taking the time to figure out which study pathway you might like to take, as there have never been so many to choose from. Also, take the time to decide which way you would like to approach this career – whether it be through university or working your way up through a trade.”

Nicholas’s study + career path

  • Electrical apprenticeship at AGL Macquarie
  • Certificate III in Electrotechnology
  • Certificate IV in Electrical Instrumentation
  • Certificate IV in Industrial Electronics and Control
  • Advanced Diploma in Electrical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering Technician, AGL Macquarie

5. Donna Stace, Maintenance Supervisor and Diversity Pathways Project Lead

Donna - STEM apprentices

Keen on STEM and an alternative pathway, but not sure if it’s the right space for you? Donna believes increasing the visibility of diversity in STEM is crucial – something that her current role as Maintenance Supervisor and Diversity Pathways Project Lead at global mining group Rio Tinto reflects.

“I work with industry to provide pathways for women and girls to join the mining industry,” says Donna. “We need diversity in all areas STEM can provide financial and longevity in an industry which is of benefit to women.”

Donna’s study + career pathway

  • Mechanical Engineering Trade Certificate, North Regional TAFE
  • State (WA) and National Women in Resources Outstanding Trade, Operator or Technician Winner 2019
  • Maintenance Supervisor and Diversity Pathways Project Lead, Rio Tinto

Find out more about VET pathways over at our vocational education and training page or STEM apprentices hub. You can also register for our FREE apprenticeships and traineeships webinar here.

Louise Meers

Author: Louise Meers

Louise is Careers with STEM’s digital content strategist. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals and build a better future.


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