Stef is a carpenter, a site manager, and the founder and CEO of Tradie Lady Club, a community aimed at raising awareness of women in trade. Her Instagram page, Melbourne Chippy , celebrates her life as a chippy to thousands of followers, but her career wasn’t always a clear-cut thing.
‘At school, I was good at art, graphic design, PE and soccer. I wanted to be an architect and tried a higher maths class, but it didn't sit well with me.
‘I didn't know what I wanted to do after high school, so I worked a number of roles, until I tried traffic management. I got a feel for being outdoors and in different locations, and being physical, and enjoyed it.’
Stef’s dad was a carpenter and builder. Growing up, she’d been fascinated by his work, so when she started considering it as a career, her family encouraged her.
‘Dad said to be a builder you need to know what you’re doing; to be able to walk on site and have knowledge of everything, you need to do an apprenticeship.’
In April 2013, she started her apprenticeship, and completed a Cert III in Carpentry at NMIT, now known as Melbourne Polytechnic, in Heidelberg.
How was your experience at TAFE?
‘I loved TAFE. It was so much fun, even more so once I made some friends. The course was challenging at times, but I worked through it and am now reaping the amazing benefits of TAFE.’
Tell us about any challenges you’ve faced on your career journey?
‘At first, being on a construction site, people saw me as a helper and I've ‘come in to help dad today’, as if I was 10 years old! But it gave me the drive to prove everyone wrong.
Once they discovered I could answer all their questions, things changed. To hear, ‘That's a great idea - let’s do that!’ – now, that is satisfaction. That gives me drive to keep going.’
What does ‘making it’ mean to you?
‘Waking up and getting to enjoy your job everyday.’
What’s your advice for school leavers?
‘Don't stress and be forced into something you’re not sure of. Call around and talk to and ask them what courses can help you get to the job you would like to be in. Knowing you’re skilled in something that not everyone can just do, or learn in a few weeks, feels good. TAFE is a pathway which will lead you to infinite career paths.
You’re building a better world with your skills. TAFE all the way for me!’
You can follow Stef’s career journey on Instagram or find out more about her Tradie Lady Club
Reviewed 01 December 2021