Hannah Robertson recently studied the New Zealand Certificate in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (Trade Assistant) at SIT Christchurch Campus, which has opened doors to a completely new and somewhat unexpected career.
Originally from the UK, Hannah has been settled in Christchurch for almost 20 years. She was working for a short-term loan company as a debt collector before she made the decision to try something completely different and take on a trade.
“I hadn’t always been interested in this field of work,” Hannah says. “It was a reasonably new idea I had, and after doing some research into it, I decided I wanted to give it a try. With it being at SIT was a bonus with the Zero Fees [Scheme].”
Hannah had previously studied Audio Production at SIT’s Invercargill campus several years ago. She did a bit of research into what was involved with the refrigeration course and how to go about it, then found it on the SIT website and applied.
“As I had previously studied at SIT, I already knew what to expect, though I wasn’t sure how the Christchurch campus would be as it is trade focused. It was a new experience, but it was worth it.”
The Refrigeration and Air Conditioning programme at SIT Christchurch Campus is a pre-trade, level three course, which functions to prepare students for the industry and teach them all the fundamentals they’ll need to know for entry into an apprenticeship in the sector. The course is divided into three days in the classroom and two days work experience per week.
Hannah says she learnt so much “It would take far too long to name it all”; she found all of the course content equally valuable and important, “especially when it comes time to put the information into practice on the job.”
“We had a very knowledgeable tutor, he made the learning experience different and fun and was always there to give you that extra helping hand when you needed it.”
“Studying at SIT has changed the way I look at certain situations and how to problem-solve them.”
Hannah also found the small, friendly, Hornby located campus to her liking. “I always like meeting new people with similar interests, it makes the experience more enjoyable.”
The biggest challenge she faced during the year of full-time study was encountered at the start of her course. “At the beginning of my time at SIT, [I was] one of two females in my class, but [this] was easily overcome in the first couple of weeks.” Hannah says it definitely helped making friends with the other female student, but also, “showing that we are just as capable of doing the work as the guys, and that we were not afraid to get in there and do it.”
Since graduating, Hannah has secured an apprenticeship with the same company she had work experience with during her course.
“I am currently doing my apprenticeship in Refrigeration; SIT did have a part to play in this role, we had to organise work experience which our tutor was more than happy to help with.” Hannah phoned a couple companies and found one that would take her on two days a week for work experience. “Which has now, thankfully, turned into a full-time job, full of opportunities.”
Hannah says the company she’s with is amazing. “I couldn't ask for a better company to work for.” They recommended she apply for a Health and Safety Level 3 Scholarship through Site Safe; she was accepted under the category of 'Women in Construction', which she’s very grateful for.
Hannah says when she first started in her work, “some of the guys on the tools thought I was the new office lady, so it was very much a surprise to them to see me in uniform ready to be paired up to start my journey.”
“The industry is forever growing and we want to welcome more females into it, I know I personally do.”
“I still get comments from different clients saying that ‘its great to see a female doing a man’s trade’ or [sometimes] ‘I need a man to climb that ladder’.” Irrespective of this, she believes there is an acceptance of women working in trades.“There will always be the ‘old school’ people, but that is just something to drive you, to show and prove that women are more than capable of doing this work,” says Hannah.
With an immediate goal of completing her apprenticeship, and enjoying the supportive work environment she’s in, Hannah is looking forward to new experiences, and seeing what opportunities and new doors will open for her in the future.