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Electrical apprenticeship sparks a career in solar for Madi

Madi Ward has always wanted to be a sparky.

“My dad is a plumber, and it was either being a plumber or being a sparky, and he pushed me a little bit to give it a go, so I thought, why not?”

Madi standing infront of a solar panels and work truck

Madi’s initial plan was to join the Army as an electrician or electrical engineer, but when COVID restrictions happened, she sought an alternative.

“I completed my VCE during COVID, but it delayed me getting my driver’s licence, and I needed that to join the army,” she says. “One of my friends worked at Total Solar, so she got me working here. I gave it a shot, and I’m loving it.”

Now a second-year electrical apprentice at Total Solar Solutions in Melbourne, Madi spends her days assessing homes and client needs with an electrical team. Sometimes, she’ll work on a house renovation or new build, completing full electrical installation. Mostly, she installs split systems and solar systems.

“We look at what the house looks like and how the solar will fit; there are regulations we follow depending on what the roof is made of. Then we measure it out, put solar panels on the roof and run cables.”

On Tuesdays, she studies at Swinburne University in Wantirna, completing the theoretical component of her apprenticeship.

“We also do practical exercises at TAFE, for example, creating a switchboard, finding the right breakers and cable, fitting off for a spa or an air conditioner. Things like that would have a practical exercise.”

Madi loves it all.

“I like trying new things and learning about solar,” she says. “I like knowing what houses fit to what capacity inverter, fitting the switchboard cable to the inverter, and knowing what amps the solar can be. I’m enjoying learning all that.”

When she finishes her electrical apprenticeship in two years, Madi is keen to complete the Clean Energy Council accreditation that permits licenced electricians to install solar panels. One day, she hopes to start her own solar business.

“Solar is such a growing industry, and I feel like it’s going to be the way of the future,” she says. “It’s different from your basic electrical, and everyone is looking for solar, so a qualification like that is something to keep.”

And while female electricians are underrepresented, she has always felt supported in her role.

“I feel like nearly everyone I have spoken to has said how awesome it is that a girl is getting out there, especially in solar,” she says. “There’s no pressure or negativity. I’d definitely tell girls to go for it.”

Experts estimate that Victoria’s transition to renewable energy will help create 59,000 jobs, including 6,000 trainees and apprenticeships in solar, wind and emerging energy.

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