When Sam Martin started her apprenticeship as an electrician, she was told nobody would hire her. Three decades later, she has not only carved out a career in the trade but has been voted Australia’s Favourite Sparky for 2022 in a competition run by NHP.
Sam, from Wandi in WA, beat 400 other entrants to claim the title, having received enthusiastic social media support from her community and winning a $5,000 Ballpark Entertainment voucher for VIP experiences at sport and entertainment events, courtesy of NHP.
According to the National Skills Commission’s Labour Market Insights, only 2% of Australian electricians are female. However, Sam points out the electric trade can be well suited for women.
“A lot of women look at it and think they won’t be strong enough or big enough,” she says. “But for the electrical trade it is good to be small, because you need to get into tight spaces.”
The newly crowned NHP’s ‘Australia’s Favourite Sparky’ runs her own business, Sam Martin Electrical, and is a passionate advocate for women entering trades. Her own interest was sparked as a little girl, following her dad around as he installed air conditioning and peeking under the hoods of cars with him.
“I always try to encourage young women into doing a trade,” she says. “It’s kind of too late when they reach high school. It should start in primary school or even kindy. Girls forget, when they’re little they get covered in mud and it’s fun. Somewhere between then and high school that can get lost.”
Sam has retained that sense of enjoyment in her own work.
“It’s fun,” she says. “If you’re into yoga, it’s good, because you’ll be doing yoga in the roof. Even when I do something boring, like laying cables, I get to do it outside, while listening to music on my headphones. You get to take your dog to work, to be physically fit. There are lots of benefits, physically and mentally.”
She describes the progress she has seen in terms of women’s position in the electrical trade over the course of her career.
“I started my apprenticeship in 1989. It was very different back then. There were pics of women in scanty clothes. It was hard to go past a building site without getting whistled at, never mind working there. I had people full-on tell me nobody will hire you when you’re done. But I love a challenge. I’ve never been unemployed. Since 2002 I’ve worked for myself.”
“I like to get little girls to see it is good to get into a trade,” she says.