A panel of tearful awards judges is not something you see every day. But Keeley Tilbrook’s descriptions of her journey to an apprenticeship and working towards her dream had the AWIC judges reaching for tissues, they were so moved by her story.

The 17-year-old school-based electrical apprentice took out both the Awesome Women in Construction (AWIC) Professional of the Year award, and the Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) funded Young Achiever award at the recent AWIC Awards.

When she’s not working towards her QCE at school, Keeley aims to lead by example in her electrical apprenticeship at Dawson Electric.

“I get the job done with a smile and push myself to do what scares me, but mostly I love to show not only young girls, but everyone around me that it is fun to do things that aren’t the norm.”

Even with her high work ethic, Keeley says having a couple days of normal school is a nice break from work, “I’ve found that the more I work in an environment that requires a high level of constant professionalism and maturity, the more I appreciate the time I get to be a normal teenager and enjoy my last year of high school with mates.”

Keeley thinks that what sets her apart is her “positive perspective on all aspects of [her] work and genuine love for what [she] does”, “I am strong willed, honest, optimistic, and am always learning through failure.”

AWIC founder and CEO, Amanda Bulow, said the inaugural AWIC Awards recognised the contributions of women across all aspects of the construction industry.

“These women are contributing to the future of the construction industry in very real, high-impacts ways, from project managers to tradies, to women in STEM, young achievers, sales and management, and support, and admin teams.”

For Keeley, helping change the stigma around females in trades is important, “I’d love to teach and show young girls that mindset is key and that the easiest way to earn respect in the industry is to use the negativity as motivation and their differences as an advantage.”

Finding a supportive workplace has helped Keeley’s ambition flourish; with Dawson Electric she feels she has not only found a job, but a work family,

“I have now been with them for over a year and the work, the people, and the vibe still ticks every box … I am so incredibly grateful for my work family that has helped me grow as an apprentice.”

Aside from finding a workplace that is respectful and supportive, Keeley says the most important thing for young apprentices is to “take any opportunity you can get, show up every day and get every job done with a good attitude.” With a good attitude and strong work ethic she says, “within just a few months you will gain an incredible amount of life skills as well as having a career lined up for yourself.”

We can’t wait to see what Keeley does next in her blooming career!

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