She’s a top tradie

He­lene’s state award for work in male dom­i­nated in­dus­try

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - By James Ben­nett

When He­lene Mort­lock de­cided to be­come an ap­pren­tice car­pen­ter, it was with the goal of pur­su­ing a long-held de­sire to get into de­sign.

The ma­ture age ap­pren­tice is now also break­ing moulds and bar­ri­ers, win­ning a state award for Woman in a non-Tra­di­tional Trade or Vo­ca­tion at the NSW State Train­ing Awards in Syd­ney on Thurs­day night.

Mrs Mort­lock was recog­nised for her offthe-job train­ing at TAFE NSW Rive­rina through her father Paul Ryan’s busi­ness, Paul Ryan Build­ing Con­trac­tors.

She start­ing train­ing with her father af­ter re­turn­ing to Jer­ilderie from Mel­bourne with her fam­ily about five years ago.

When Mrs Mort­lock was liv­ing in Mel­bourne she was a copy­writer and ed­i­tor for La Trobe Univer­sity, while her hus­band, Justin, worked in IT.

‘‘When we moved to Jer­ilderie, Justin and I both had to make a change in ca­reers and go back to study and re-train.

‘‘Justin is still do­ing IT but rather than what he was do­ing on Collins St, it’s now for agri­cul­ture.

‘‘Prior to mov­ing I had an in­ter­est in de­sign; I would as­sist my friends with their house ren­o­va­tions. So I got in­volved in car­pen­try.

‘‘I’m to­tally lov­ing it; I’ve al­ways be­ing a phys­i­cal per­son so it was easy to adapt.’’

Mrs Mort­lock said while she was ex­cited and hon­oured to have re­ceived last week’s award — and to be cho­sen to now con­test the na­tional awards later this year — she said she took more plea­sure in that it paid tribute to her father.

‘‘I’m hon­oured, but more so de­lighted for dad,’’ Mrs Mort­lock said.

‘‘Dad has been in the game for 60 years and he should be sat­is­fied with his hard work.

‘‘Peo­ple like dad that are highly skilled and have ex­ten­sive knowl­edge, but usu­ally take their skills with them when they re­tire. ‘‘So I’m very for­tu­nate to learn from him.’’ Mr Ryan said given his time in the in­dus­try, and his age, he was glad to pass on his skills to his daugh­ter be­fore his re­tire­ment. ‘‘I’m very proud of her,’’ he said. ‘‘She only got the award by putting in the hard work, and she has great at­ten­tion to de­tail with ev­ery­thing she does.

‘‘At my young age of 77, it’s pos­si­ble she might be my last ap­pren­tice.’’

Ac­cord­ing to 2015 Aus­tralia Bureau of Statis­tics re­sults, only five per cent of full time em­ploy­ees in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try are women.

Mrs Mort­lock said her ex­pe­ri­ence and her award will hope­fully be a cat­a­lyst for more choosing to chal­lenge them­selves in their ca­reers.

‘‘It’s not about work­ing phys­i­cally harder if you’re a car­pen­ter or tradie, you need to work smarter,’’ she said.

‘‘I’ve been able to ap­ply some of my skills from when I was at La Trobe to my new ca­reer.

‘‘If dif­fer­ent work­places can change their cul­ture it will in­crease the em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for women — for half the pop­u­la­tion.

‘‘Many of my clients are women and they like hav­ing a woman work­ing for them.

‘‘Ul­ti­mately it comes down to skills and good com­mu­ni­ca­tion.’’

He­lene Mort­lock won the NSW State Train­ing Award’s Woman in a non-Tra­di­tional Trade or Vo­ca­tion spe­cial award last week.

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