Helene rapt with Top Tradie Tag
Jerilderie student Helene Mortlock won this year’s Special Award for a Woman in a Non-traditional Trade or Vocation at the 2017 NSW Training Awards in Sydney. The TAFE NSW Certificate III in Carpentry and Certificate IV in Construction student, who is employed by Paul Ryan Building Contractors, was among 10 winners of specific Industry Excellence Awards - and many other awards granted on the night.
The prestigious awards, conducted by the NSW Department of Industry, recognise the many vocational education and training (VET) students, teachers, providers and employers working across the sector.
“My training through TAFE NSW has definitely contributed to my lifelong love of construction. It has given me the motivation to seek further skills in this industry providing me with the springboard to other ends.
The confidence in undertaking study once more as a mother of three, wife to one and all other commitments considered, has been a great challenge but achievable with more reward than detriment,” said Helene.
From the country to the city and back home; from the desk to the drill. Helene Mortlock’s move into what was normally considered a male domain is a story in determination and dedication.
As soon as she finished her HSC Helene, like many other country youngsters, couldn’t wait to head to the big smoke and university.
Off the hamster wheel
Then, after 21 years the decision was made to get off the “hamster wheel” and move back to Jerilderie. “Husband Justin and I had made the decision to move our three kids back to the country so they would know the difference.
“Moving to a population of 700 definitely reduces the employment options -- which we knew. We just had to either find a niche or create one for ourselves, as our city jobs couldn’t come with us.”
Helene originally set herself up in a little shopfront in the main street with her art studio. Having always loved buildings and Australian architecture she had honed her drawing abilities in her early 20’s to the point of being able to help ‘pay the rent’ from her commissioned house portraits, so she took up the pencils once more.
“My Father was/is slowing up with age and as the local builder in Jerilderie was keeping on keeping on. My brother Chris Ryan had moved back from a decade of building in Canberra to help out Dad and so I decided to work with them,” Helene recalled.
And so started her carpentry career.
Touch of irony
“I attended Griffith TAFE where both my brothers had been nearly two decades earlier! Ironically, doing an apprenticeship was something I too would have liked to have done in my late teen years (post-HSC as my brothers had with Dad) but none of us ‘entertained the thought’ as I was a girl. So I was encouraged in my academic pursuits instead.
“I originally signed up as apprentice to Chris but with talk of him moving back to Canberra (where all his clients were missing him) I transferred over to Dad.
“Dad has over 60 years of experience in the industry. He needed a capable body (I am) and I wanted to learn (Dad has a wealth of wisdom) and Dad’s not ready to retire entirely yet – too much knowledge to pass on.
“It’s a happy collaboration of skills and abilities and now I have finished my apprenticeship the hours can be flexed to ensure Dad gets to have plenty of flexi time or time at the desk making calls,” she said.
Like all apprentices, Helene started with the somewhat menial list of tasks ... one of which was sharpening all the chisels in the workshop!
It was in 2014 that she enrolled in the Certificate III in Carpentry at Riverina TAFE NSW, Griffith Campus. Then, in 2016 while attending TAFE for her three day ‘blocks’ every three weeks, she decided she could maximise her learning opportunities on those evenings. “With hours spent at home to compliment the in-class time, thanks to the ‘flexible’ delivery, I also undertook the Certificate IV in Building and Construction. This made those three days rather lengthy ones in class from 8am to 10pm but I was focussed and loving it so it was no bother.
“The good thing is I now have my Carpentry Licence and my Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry (K.B.L) Licence.
Family trades .... Helene, her brother Chris Ryan, Dad (Paul Ryan), Hunter (the dog), John Crittenden and his son Ignatius Crittenden. Paul put Chris through his apprenticeship over a decade ago. Then Helene as the ‘last apprentice’. John employs his son Ignatius in their Heating and Cooling business also in Jerilderie.
Member SALT (Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen) - Advocacy for women in trades. “Photo of me with the banner of me, used as one of the displays, was taken at the inaugural conference held in Wollongong August 2016. The next one is in Brisbane 2018”.