He­lene rapt with Top Tradie Tag

Australasian Timber - - LEARNING -

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”.

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