Mum of three Karina Kiley was pregnant with her daughter when she saw that FlexCareers employer partner Essential Energy was hiring for apprentice power-line workers and decided to apply. Heavily pregnant, Karina didn’t expect to get an interview, let alone be offered the job, she said “I really didn’t expect Essential Energy to be interested in me, particularly because apprenticeships are really sought after.” But interested they were and, 3-months after having her baby, Karina started her site-based inductions in rural NSW.
Karina talks to FlexCareers about those early weeks, and how Essential Energy has supported her to Return to Work and transition into a whole new career.
I knew when I applied, that if I was successful, those first few months were going to be really challenging. Apprenticeships are not easy to come by, particularly with companies that are flexible like Essential Energy. It was obvious from my first chats with their team that they are really supportive of women pursuing careers in field-based, technical and trades roles. It also didn’t worry them at all that I was heavily pregnant at the time – that said a lot. I was still absolutely shocked when I got the job offer though! There were so many applicants, and I’m sure many of them would have been a ‘safe bet’ all things considered, but there was never any suggestion that they worried about that.
There was a bit of time between the interview and the apprenticeship starting, so there was time for us all to plan how we would manage everything. In the end, my daughter was three months old when I started my 2-weeks of induction and training. The training centre was 100kms away, and the other apprentices stayed there for the 2-weeks, but to help me manage breastfeeding and my family commitments, I commuted instead. Essential Energy were really supportive of this, and made sure I had everything I needed to make it work for me, including flexibility around my hours. They also let me know they were happy for me to take the baby with me if I preferred, which was an amazing offer, but for the two weeks I felt more comfortable to leave her at home with my partner while I commuted each day.
Starting a new career was definitely quite daunting, and very challenging so soon after having a baby. The team here have been fantastic, the guys on site have been really welcoming and everyone has a family-first attitude. If I needed to go home for any reason, it’s always been fully supported and it’s not just because I’m a mum. The men on site all have access to the same flexibility and they’ll often shoot home early if they need to take the kids to a doctors appointment or go to a school event – no one is afraid or embarrassed to ask to be somewhere that they need to be.
Essential Energy have been unbelievably supportive, and so encouraging. It’s been amazing. There is so much opportunity here for training and development, and you’re really encouraged to take on new challenges. You definitely feel trusted to get your work done, and to be able to manage your work around your other commitments, and that’s so important – particularly when you are out in the field, or travelling long distances from home.
From a family perspective, we also made some pretty major adjustments to make this work for me. My partner took 12-months leave from work to be the primary carer for our kids. He works in mining and it’s definitely not the ‘usual thing’ for the Dad to do but he was happy to do it to give me the support that I needed. I’m so grateful to him for that. I couldn’t have done it without him.
If you’re thinking about returning to work, or looking at a new career my advice would be don’t let the fact you have a young family put you off. I almost didn’t apply for this role, and I am so glad that I did. You absolutely need to look out for an employer that will support you – it’s a difficult transition but it is so worth it!
Karina is a Apprentice Powerline technician for Essential Energy. You can find out more about Essential Energy and browse available jobs here.